Friday, October 9, 2009

An insane generosity

What the Gospels MeantContinuing with my series highlighting interesting passages in "What the Gospels Meant," I have to say that I was really struck and convicted by Garry Wills' translation of Luke 6:27-38 (which parallels the more famous Sermon on the Mount but in Luke's version is a little more stripped down).

Maybe it was the fresh language Wills brings to it, maybe it's just that I've spent more time with the Mattew 5 verses than with Luke's framing of these core teaching, or maybe it's just reading it all squished together in one paragraph with no verse breaks, but it felt to me afresh and alive to hear this plea from Jesus of what he desires of us.
"I say to all you who can hear me: Love your foes, help those who hate you, praise those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who punches your cheek, offer the other cheek. To one seizing your cloak, do not refuse your tunic under it. Whoever asks, give to him. Whoever seizes, do not resist. Exactly how you wish to be treated, in that way treat others. For if you love those who love back, what mark of virtue have you? Sinners themselves love those who love back. If you treat well those treating you well, what mark of virtue have you? That is how sinners act. If you lend only where you calculate a return, what mark of virtue have you? Sinners, too, lend to sinners, calculating an exact return. No, rather love your foes, and treat them well, and lend without any calculation of return. Your great repayment will be that you are children of the Highest One, who also favors ingrates and scoundrels. Be just as lenient as that lenient Father. Do not judge, then, and you will not be judged. Be no sentencer, and you will not be sentenced. Pardon and you will be pardoned. Give, and ample recompense of crammed-in, sifted-down, overtoppling good will be showered into your lap. The excess will correspond to your excess."
So often we get the Bible handed to us in little fortune-cookie sized snippets, and the fullness of what is being said is lost. A single verse can be rationalized away. The full passage makes it clear that Jesus is hammering home one point, over and over: God is insanely generous, and to be his followers, we must be insanely generous as well. Not generous to a church, or to an institution, or to a cause, but generous to people. Insanely. Absurdly. Foolishly — against all rules of nature and rules of man. God has poured out his benevolence on ingrates and scoundrels and his children will do the same.

That just can't be swept under the rug. That can't be dismissed as pie-in-the-sky. That the reality of God's kingdom that we must bend our minds around in order to understand the Almighty Father and his will for us as his emissaries. I for one know that my mind still struggles to bend toward His heart.

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