Summary: Nothing proves our faith like suffering for it. Jesus calls us to follow him and face suffering in ways that are purely kingdom ways. Can we do it?
Does our Christian ethic or moral position change with situation and circumstance? Not long ago James Dobson stated that he could not vote for any candidate for office who endorsed abortion or homosexual relationships. There was a backlash against Dobson that came from many supporters that used to agree with him! How did they come to change their ethical stance and why?
In my Christian ethics class I’m reading several books that focus attention on how Jesus has impacted our ethical understandings as Christians. One of them is this book: The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. As he looks briefly at Luke’s gospel and church history, Yoder shows how through the years the church has lost touch with the amazing message of Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle. What happens, he notes is that the early disciples who knew Jesus and those who became disciples early on heard and lived by a standard that was high and holy. This standard has been muffled and reshaped and even replaced in Christian circles today. The early church listened to Jesus words and actually accepted them at face value because Jesus didn’t just speak them, he lived them. He didn’t just live them, he died doing them. In fact, Jesus final hours and the cross itself tested and proved Jesus as the true Son of God who is King of kings and Lord of lords over a new kingdom with a new heavenly politic and ethic. Jesus entered his glory through the cross. But more, Jesus entered his glory by being faithful to the will of God even through the cross. And when Jesus called people to follow him, he called them to live like he lived.
It is one thing to listen to politicians today proclaim themselves worthy of leading our nation. While I’m sure many are sincere, it appears to me that most of their words are hollow, their promises are shallow, and their visions are crafted to tickle the ears of those who hear their speeches. Why? They are campaigning for our votes. They are supposed to say what is popular! Not Jesus Christ! He didn’t proclaim a message to win our votes. Jesus brought us a message from heaven to save our lost souls. Jesus’ words are heavy with depth and explosive with power because THEY ARE GOD’S WORDS. Jesus’ promises are absolutely true and trustworthy because THEY ARE GOD’S PROMISES. Jesus’ vision for our future is completely accurate because he describes GOD’S VISION for the ultimate punishment of evil and reward for righteousness. We don’t vote for Jesus, we DEVOTE our lives to Jesus as Lord… or we don’t. How do you know if you are devoted to Jesus Christ or not? What are the marks of true discipleship? Jesus answers that question in part here in Luke 6 in the Sermon on the Plain.
Listen carefully to what Jesus says here in this sermon. As you listen, ask yourself: am I living by what Jesus envisions here? Am I obeying His instructions in my life? Jesus expects you to! Jesus says in verse 46 “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Following Jesus means more than simply saying, “I believe in Jesus as the Son of God.” Following Jesus means doing what he commands. Doesn’t it? Am I making this up? Am I just imagining that Christianity means doing what Jesus Christ said? Before we read what Jesus told us to do, listen to Jesus’ conclusion of this sermon. Read verses 47-49. Is that what your Bible says?
As you read this sermon there is actually very little that Jesus commands us to do. After pronouncing blessings on the poor, hungry, sad, and those who are hated because of Jesus’ name, he tells them to rejoice because of the greatness of their reward. Then he pronounces woes on the rich, full, laughing, and popular, telling them things will be reversed for them in the future. But after that come the commands. Jesus issues some of the most difficult commands in the Bible.
Look again at verses 27-31.
27 "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
29 "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.
30 "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
31 "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
As I read these verses they are not hard to understand. What is hard is putting them into practice. They raise all sorts of questions and objections in our minds and hearts. I want to think, surely he didn’t really mean that!