5 November 2017Luke 6:20-31
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (vv. 27-28)
Psalm: Psalm 149
Luke's Gospel brings something different to the familiar beatitudes of Matthew (Matthew 5:1-12), pairing them with their opposites - maledictions - in a rare exact parallel, which brings to mind the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28. Jesus' gospel message is a difficult one - it promises good things to those who are suffering, or says that however bad their situation God is with them now, while offering despair to the prosperous. There is no need to take this literally, but his insight was to tell his hearers, following in the footsteps of the ancient prophets, that a deeply-divided society is deeply wrong. Prosperity can be a cause poverty, no wonder a radical preacher wants to turn things in their head. The Methodist Church, following in the footsteps of our own radical preacher, John Wesley, is well in tune with these sentiments. For this reason the Methodist Church has Action on Poverty and Justice grantswhich are addressing the problem through many successful projects.
The double-edged nature of Scripture will be well-known (Hebrews 4:12), here we see it wielded by Jesus (as Revelation 1:16 suggests), but each side has its own cut. The fate of the wealthy is to be cut off from their prosperity, for the poor and oppressed it is a perspective of hope and restoration. The whole of the gospel cannot be limited to a later restitution though, when the gospel is brought to life it does not wait but seeks to change the world. But that is neither enough, nor the beginning.
There is no point, or even success, in seeking to change the world without changing ourselves first. We read this in another tradition which is close to Christianity - "God does not change a people's lot unless they change what is in their hearts" (Qur'an 13:11).
- How do you feel about the maledictions?
- How do you respond to a gospel which, at its centre, wants to turn society upside down?