[Jesus said] “Give love and mercy the same as your Father gives love and mercy. Don’t judge others, and God will not judge you. Don’t condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.” – Luke 6:36-38
I can imagine the scene like it was yesterday, like it was me Jesus was talking to, like I was there. He’s on a hillside, probably leaning against a tree, an open view of the Sea of Galilee in front of him and a crowd of people in between.
The Master looks around, takes it all in, recognizes some familiar faces, breathes in knowledge of who they are as God’s children, breathes out love and compassion, recognizes the hunger for truth, and then speaks into their lives, speaks into ours.
I imagine that Jesus spoke fairly quietly, but with a voice that projected, lingered, extended, penetrated. His words carried more weight than volume, more gravitas than flair, his sentences somehow managing to hold together until they landed just where God intended them to land. The man sitting directly in front of the crowd; the woman farther back who caught exactly the words God had for her; the Roman soldier on the periphery, off duty for a moment but curious about this teacher; the religious leader gathering ammunition to use against this troubling rabbi, but finding instead the words of grace and mercy he had not realized he was longing to receive.
And us, too; hearing sometimes as if for the first time:
- “Give love and mercy the same as your Father gives love and mercy.”
- “Don’t judge others, and God will not judge you.”
- “Don’t condemn others, or it will all come back against you.”
- “Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”
- “Give to others, and you will receive.”
- “You will be given much. It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap.”
- “The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.”
I think what engages me so much about Christ’s teaching is how unapologetically simple it is. Jesus is direct, to the point, and uncompromising in his approach. When we listen to these sentences the message is clear, raw, unfiltered, focused; it’s ours.
The focus of teaching like this is for followers of Jesus – people like us – to be a kind of delivery system for God’s grace, love, and mercy. And Jesus has to point this out repeatedly, because our more natural inclination is to appoint ourselves surrogate judges, pharisees, condemners, and withholders of forgiveness.
“Nope,” Jesus repeats, time and again; “not your job. Stop it right now or it’s all going to come back against you. Your job is mercy and grace, your responsibility is giving and forgiving, your opportunity is being the application of love in my name.”
Jesus knows all too well what happens when we begin to lean away from grace and focus on judgment. God is aware of the witness of history, and – through Jesus – God is clearly spelling out another way.
“Follow me!” Jesus offers, in an invitation for us to step out of those negative cycles and into the Kingdom of God, a world of “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, poured into your lap” (NRSV).
I can imagine the scene like it was yesterday, just as if it was me Jesus was talking to, as if I was really there – on a hillside, probably leaning against a tree, an open view of the Sea of Galilee in front of us and a crowd of people in between – talking to me.
Can you hear him too? – DEREK