Christ’s Radical Inversion of Social Values
General Comment on Luke 6:27-38
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 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 sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-36)
“You reap what you sow…”
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth..”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The Law of Karma in Eastern religion.
The above represent expressions of the natural law of reciprocity, which is the ruling principle for economic and social relationships in the natural world.
In his commentary on Luke Joel B. Green recognizes two types of reciprocity in societies. The first is “balanced reciprocity,” which is: “the direct exchange of goods of approximately equal value within a relatively narrow period of time” (Green, “The Gospel of Luke” from The New International Commentary series, p. 202). The second type Green calls “generalized reciprocity,” wherein: “the exchange is essentially one sided, altruistic, the giving of a gift without explicit stipulations for any reciprocation in kind” (ibid. p. 202).
The generalized type is always found among the members the nuclear family (parents and children), but in some cases and cultures it is seen among members of the extended family.
Jesus challenged the world system, commanding his disciples to extend generalized reciprocity beyond the trusted boundary of family into the hostile territory of our enemies. As Jesus’ disciples we are to love our enemies by doing good to them, praying for them and blessing them, even though they may curse us. This is no lofty, unattainable ideal, but Christ’s expectation for all Christians all of the time. This teaching of Jesus alone, if followed seriously, could radically transform every society in which it is practiced.
Jesus came to radically transform the economy of the world system. He did not merely teach his disciples, challenging them to live differently. Jesus came to earth to pay the massive debt owed by every person as the result of sin. “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus cancelled the sin debt owed by all people when he took it upon himself, then suffered humiliation, beating and the death of crucifixion. Jesus established a new economy based upon grace. That is the fundamental feature of the Gospel. When Jesus Christ paid all debts with His act of love on the cross, he provided an inexhaustible, super-fund of good merit from which every person may draw when they confess sin, repent and put faith in the Savior.
We are called to extend the grace and forgiveness we have received to everyone we meet.
How can we do this? Is Jesus calling us to be dishonored doormats? He is calling us to be like Himself. As the Roman soldiers drove the nails into His hands, Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Yet how will we have the courage to do this? Jesus said, “if someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes something from you do not demand it back” (from Luke 6:29-30). Are we to give over our possessions simply because immoral people demand it? Are we to give up our homes to the homeless? Are we to spend all of our valuable leisure time “going the second mile” for ungrateful people (see Matthew’s version of Jesus’ message, in 5:41)? Who will protect me? Who will take care of my needs? The Father will provide for and protect me.
We do these things as we abide in Christ. We ask for wisdom from His Holy Spirit before we act rashly, or refuse to act on the basis of self-protection and selfish motives. We are to act without concern for ourselves. Instead, we act: 1) in obedience to Christ’s command, 2) with discretion from the Holy Spirit, 3) in the true best interest of the other, whether friend or foe, family or outsider, honest or criminal.
This is God’s agape’ love. We can do it because we have a God and Father who promises to repay and care for us. In fact, when we act in obedience to Christ’s command and teaching, we are abiding in Him and thereby actively placing ourselves in the care and favor of His Almighty Father, and ours (cf. John 15:5-10, Psalm 41:1-3, Isaiah 58:1-10).
Relevant quotes from Green: “Jesus rejects the life of obligation and debt (see Luke 4:18-19). In its place he first posits a generalized reciprocity, the sort of open-handed sharing characteristic of families, and urges that actions typical among kin be the norm for interaction with all persons. But he also envisions a form of ideal benefaction: give to others without expectation of return, and God will give to you… That is, in redefining the world for his followers…Jesus posits as its foundation his image of God as merciful Father (Luke 6:36)….That is, Jesus declares such behavior demonstrates that one is a child of God” (ibid. p. 270 & 271) “Love is expressed in doing good—that is, not by passivity in the face of opposition but in proactivity: doing good, blessing, praying and offering the second cheek and shirt along with coat” (ibid. p. 272).
Christ came to radically transform every relationship. Stating all of this is one thing, but I must learn to live it and do it every day, and so must you if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.