(Last Modified 9/8/2019. This document reflects my current commitments as they relate to Luke 6.)
I’ve prayed and read Luke 6 with friends, and these are the commitments I’m currently willing to make based on my reading of Luke 6, in the broader context of the Bible and the universe as I understand it.
Through that process, I feel lovingly and graciously invited by the Holy Spirit and my church community to make the following personal commitment:
First, I personally read Luke 6 in the context of the great commission of Jesus, as a very substantial (if partial) answer to my question, “What is the foundation of the teachings Jesus is talking about here?”:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18–20. NIV)
I understand “making disciples” to be about practical training and apprenticeship in Jesus practices, and I see Jesus lay the most basic foundation for all of that most clearly in Luke 6.
In light of this, I’m committed to practicing and training the teachings of Jesus in Luke 6, understanding the clear teaching and regular, routine practice of these teachings as foundational to building my life, my family, the church, and fulfilling the Great Commission.
Without a deep foundation in the practices Jesus teaches and demonstrates here, I am convinced that anything else I try to build will eventually collapse; it won’t endure from age to age.
As Jesus says at the end of Luke 6:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
(Luke 6:48–49 NIV)
I understand the Beatitudes to be practical advice, enjoining me to not only mourn with those who mourn due to injustice, but to live a life of simplicity and poverty in my own context so that I have a meaningful basis for action in true solidarity with them. In this mourning, I have found and hope to find more comfort in the victory of Jesus, which gives me hope for real healing of physical and spiritual and social injuries here and now, and fully in the end.
I think The Message translation does an excellent job of capturing the practical, applied, and dynamic implications of the words of Jesus here, from the perspective of Eugene Peterson, a person who I believe has real insight into the intended meaning of the text because he spent time living it out, with help and guidance from the Holy Spirit:
Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him — so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens — skip like a lamb, if you like! — for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests — look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.
Luke 21–26 (The Message)
I understand the teaching on enemy love in Luke 6, like the teaching in Matthew 5, to be practical and foundational teaching for all followers of Jesus, and to also be among the very clearest and most explicit teachings of Christian Scripture:
“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. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27–36 (NIV)
I’m convinced that Jesus goes on to demonstrate this teaching in his ministry, even to the point of his enemy-loving death on a cross, where he loves his killers by interceding on their behalf:
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34 (NIV)
I am also convinced by both Biblical and other historical evidence that the apostles and followers of Jesus have, in fact, been like their teacher (Luke 6:40) in their persistence in enemy love, even to the point of death when needed. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I use the language “Do not put us to the test,” and understand it to be a prayer asking that both I and my community are not faced with this ultimate test. At the same time, I am personally committed to being like my teacher, Jesus, in this way, if it should come to this, and I pray for the grace to be able to keep that commitment.
I am also committed to practicing and teaching correction on all topics, including the topics of enemy love and solidarity with the poor, as a person who is persistently trying to remove “planks” from my own eye.
As Jesus says immediately after the teaching on enemy love:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Luke 6:41–42 (NIV)
This commitment to persistent self-correction also fundamentally forms my understanding of the rest of this commitment: wherever I am wrong, or where I think someone else may be wrong, I am committed to earnestly seeking to remove the planks from my own eye. In this way, this commitment includes a profound invitation within itself for my own ongoing correction and self-critique. As part of this, I also understand the note that Jesus makes about “slivers” to be a helpful suggestion, that there is only a “sliver of hope” of removing something from someone else’s eye and that this is a dangerous procedure to be undertaken with permission and great care. In contrast, if others are convinced to remove their own planks by God, then there is great hope for real progress in truth together.
I understand this posture of plank removal to extend, as I also extend, into all of the “we’s” of which I am a part. As a citizen of the United States, I am committed to helping us remove planks from our national eye before worrying about other nations, for example. And I recognize that when I am speaking as a part of any church grouping that recognizes itself as a coherent whole, and which recognizes me as a part of it, then I am committed to help remove planks from the eye of that group that clearly contains me. And in the same way, as a clear part of Central Vineyard Church, I am committed to removing planks from our own church’s eye.
These commitments to enemy love and removing our own planks first should not be mistaken for passivity, or a willingness to become complicit in evil, or an unwillingness to correct or resist evil in others, in any way, and at any scale. I am convinced that the example that Jesus sets at the beginning of Luke 6 demonstrates an important willingness to disobey immoral demands, even when they are made with the force of law behind them:
“On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.”
Luke 6:6–11 (NIV)
I am committed to loving all people, in word and deed, whether or not they have learned to observe all that Jesus has commanded. This includes simple generosity and love for all people, whether they are supportive of me or opposed to me, and whether they identify themselves as Christians or not.
In my understanding, loving all people also includes inviting all people to become disciples of Jesus, and to continue learning to observe all that he has commanded. And it includes love within my own communities, as we continue to learn to observe all that he has commanded, especially where there is disagreement and conflict. This certainly includes disagreement and conflict related to this commitment.
I am committed to doing all of this only in and by the grace of God, always extending forgiveness and love to all people, by which I mean each and every single person I encounter.
I hope and pray that God will empower me to carry this out and walk in it more and more, lovingly and quickly correcting me when I fail, through God’s infinite grace and love.
As I do this, I also hope to be filled with a new confidence that Jesus will surely be with us, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)