Luke 6 — Love Your Enemies….

As I have mentioned in previous posts Luke Chapter 6 is at the heart of the Bible as far as I am concerned. Lets look at some of it starting at verse 27.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  

These are some very hard words when we take them literally! Jesus gave us many messages through parables, stories, and such. Sometimes that is difficult to understand. Why didn’t he just come out with a set of rules instead of constantly telling us stories. I think part of the reason for that is because he knew that two thousand years in the future we would still be studying his messages and they needed to seem relevant to that time and all the time before and after.

When I look for the underlying message from the above words I think Jesus was trying to tell us  that we are not to have a retaliatory attitude. In other words he was canceling the Old Testament verses about an eye for an eye. Even though he claimed he only came to fulfill scriptures, Jesus seemed to take several  Old Testament rules off the table during his ministry. When God said vengeance was his I think he really meant it. It is not up to us to take revenge on others who we deem has done us wrong. God will do that; maybe not in this life but certainly in the next.

Of course, like so many other messages from Jesus the final sentence above is the one that attracts all the attention. Like the story of the sheep and the goats where Jesus is talking about “being” Christians instead of jut mouthing the words, we often ignore the verses we don’t like.  Many have turned sheep/goats story into being about beliefs instead of actions. Yes, there are messages hidden within many of Jesus’ word  but we should not immediately discount the possibility that he might have also meant them literally.

For most of us it would be extremely hard to turn the other cheek or to not try to get back what others take from us. But I think the underlying message in this instance is that we should not give much priority to the “things” we own. They are just things and are not that important in a true Christian’s life. Being our brother’s keeper is a hard thing to practice in this world but that is what Jesus insists if you espouse to be a Christian.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless and pray for those who mistreat you.  Don’t fight back, give to anyone who asks. These are hard lessons to learn. May we all struggle daily to try to live up to them.

Oh That Founding Father Origen…

As we have learned in several of my recent posts Origen was one of the most influential theologians in the early church who was later deemed a heretic and then after that a saint again.  He spent quite a bit of time reading the “scripture” of his day. I put scripture in parens here because there was no Bible as we know it today in existence.

Today Origen is definitely not one of the more popular early Christian figures with some in our establishment churches. That is particularly true of those that believe all of the Bible comes from God’s lips and is totally factual and inerrant. That belief has never been as universal as some would have us believe. Here is another quote from A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story  by Diana Butler Bass.

Origen pointed out scriptural contradictions from Genesis through the Gospels. Not intending to ridicule God’s Word, Origen claimed, The object of all these statements on our part, is to show that it was the design of the Holy Spirit, who deigned to bestow upon us the sacred Scriptures, to show that we were not to be edified by the letter alone, or by everything in it—a thing which we see to be frequently impossible and inconsistent; for in that way not only absurdities, but impossibilities, would be the result; but that we are to understand that certain occurrences were interwoven in this “visible” history which, when considered and understood in the inner meaning, give forth a law which is advantageous to men and worthy of God.

Origen believed that scripture was much like Jesus’ teaching in that he used parables which are fictional stories to relay a message and so to do the other writers of ancient script.   Origen was not an infrequent visitor to the scripture. In fact he spent twenty years on his Hexaple which was a massive work of Old Testament analysis. There was probably no one in his day that had more knowledge of the ancient writings than him.

This will probably conclude our study of Origen. As I have said before he definitely shows that the earliest versions of Christianity were very diverse. It was not until the power struggles that frequently occurred within the church establishment did this willingness to accept a diversity of belief become stifled. I celebrate the fact that the current emergent movement is willing, in fact they actually celebrate diversity in their midst.  They accept that there is more than one “right” way to being a follower of Jesus Christ and that gives me confidence that the church of Jesus Christ just might live to see a bright future.