Seeing With New Eyes

It’s not about who we are, it’s about who God is.

Luke 6:27-38

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Every once in a while, my wonderful husband Rob will start a conversation with a random statement like, “You weren’t even listening, were you?”[1]

That’s a bit like the way today’s scripture reading begins. “But I say to you who listen…”

[2]Who is Jesus talking to? Those who listen. What do we call people who listen to Jesus? Disciples.

Today’s reading is the continuation of the scripture we read last week. It’s all part of the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus is talking to the disciples, all those who are following Jesus to listen and learn. That includes all of us who are listening to and learning from Jesus.

As you were listening, did you catch verse 31?

Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

What do we call that verse?  [The Golden Rule]

Maybe, like me, you learned a different Golden Rule growing up:

He who has the gold makes the rules.

It’s funny because it’s true.

It might not have sounded so funny to us as children, though. And maybe the way we hear these verses that Georgia read for us today somewhat depends on whether or not we are someone who has the gold and makes the rules.

If we are in the majority, living in a first-world country, we are probably not listening with the same perspective as those who were listening to Jesus in the first century. They were not the majority culture, nor the majority religion.  They had been conquered by the Babylonians, ruled by the Persians. The Greeks had taken over about 300 years before Jesus was born.[3] By the time of our reading, Rome was in control.  We see this in the Book of Acts when the Apostle Paul declares that he is a Roman, and suddenly he goes from being a criminal who is about to be whipped to being treated as a privileged citizen. (Acts 22:24-29)

Since those listening to Jesus were a minority culture living under the rule of an oppressive government, I wonder which of the statements in these verses would have been the most surprising to them? 

Which verses are the most surprising to you?

One that stands out to me is Verse 30:

Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.

How well do we put that into practice?

Have you ever had something taken away from you by someone who was a higher authority?

[4]

When I was growing up in Southern California, some of the current freeways didn’t yet exist, so to get to my weekly piano lessons we drove across the San Fernando Valley on surface streets. I remember my dad pointing out houses being torn down or moved to clear the land for the freeway.  Entire neighborhoods were being eliminated.  Those who owned those houses didn’t have the option to stay there. They were compensated, but they didn’t get to say no or ask for their property back.

Another verse that stands out to me in today’s reading is verse 37:

Do not judge and you will not be judged.

I had a run-in with this verse years ago. Rob and I had a big argument about something that seemed very important at the time.  Of course, I was right, and Rob was wrong, and it was so obvious that I couldn’t believe he couldn’t see how wrong he was. (Haha) Later that day, I was wandering through a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I picked up a Bible from one of the shelves and opened it to a random page and read, “Do not judge and you will not be judged….for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  Ugh. I definitely didn’t want to be measured by the same measure I had been using. I had to go find Rob and apologize.

This week for Valentine’s Day, Rob gave me a book – an African American New Testament Commentary.  That might not sound so romantic, but it was on my wish list, and I was excited to get it because I was hoping that it would help me to see with new eyes.[5]  Almost all of my commentaries were written by white men of European descent.  One reason is that only those with political and social standing were considered to have “legitimate” perspectives.[6]  Are white men of European descent the only ones who have legitimate perspectives?  No, of course not, and, thankfully, other perspectives are getting published more and more.

A history professor at Clemson University told us to be suspicious of anyone who says they’re giving an unbiased perspective.  There is no such thing.  We all have biases that affect how we see and hear what’s happening in the world around us, and in the Bible.  If, when we read the Bible, we remember scenes from a movie or lyrics from a song, those are affecting our understanding. We also likely see and hear what we’ve been told by pastors and teachers, parents, and friends. 

We also see differently depending on where we grew up, and whether we own property. Our race and gender and occupation affect how we hear and see.  Our age makes a difference, and so does our access to information. We all see through the eyes of our own context. Being aware of this helps us see differently.

Sometimes we can get caught up going in circles trying to figure out all the ins and outs of what Jesus is saying.  Sometimes it helps to break it down with some good old-fashioned sentence analysis.  When I did that with today’s passage, it helped me see two things. 

One is that verse 35 sums everything up:

But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Really if all we remember is that verse, we’d be in pretty good shape.  So say it with me.

But I think it’s also helpful to put things in perspective by remembering why we do those things.  The “why” really popped out at me when I wrote out all the people words in today’s reading in the color purple:

Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Which of those people are we?   All of them.  We get distracted by seeing our differences, measuring ourselves against each other, but God our Most High is gracious to us all and loves us all the same.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:45 that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

It’s not about who we are, it’s about who God is.  God is the Most High. God gives goodness and love to us all.

Life is a love fest, not a contest.[7]   God’s mercy is wider than we can ever fully see.

Let’s ask God to help us to see with new eyes.

Luke 6:27-38 Native American NT – Samantha

Dialog with Samantha Corwin – Chickasaw Spirituality

  • When did you find out you were Chickasaw?
    • Adoption agreement
  • How do you reconcile the two?
    • Creation care
    • Dances = prayers
  • Who do you pray to?
    • God / Aba’ binni’li’
  • What do you hope we’ll take away from today?
    • Worship can look different for different people
    • Evangelism doesn’t have to strip culture

[1] https://upjoke.com/listening-jokes

[2] Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

[3] https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/history-of-jerusalem#:~:text=Alexander%20the%20Great%20took%20control,%2C%20Egyptians%2C%20Mamelukes%20and%20Islamists.

[4] Photo by Maurice Williams on Unsplash

[5] Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash

[6] Brian Blount, et al. True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), p.3.

[7] Total credit to Rob Krabbe for this bumper sticker!

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