In honor of Easter Sunday, I thought I’d share a Bible passage from Luke. It’s been on my mind quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. This particular passage is from the “other” Gospel record of the Sermon on the Mount …. I think Matthew’s version is the more popular, but this one from Luke has stuck with me since I was a young man, battling the hate and anger that rises up in me from time to time:
27) “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28) bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.
29) To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.
30) Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
31) And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
32) “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33) And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34) And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.
35) But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
36) Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
37) “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38) Give, and it will be given to you: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
One of the things I take from the Gospel is how Christ Jesus taught us to interact with our fellow man. He believed that everyone had value to His Father and that as a result, we have a responsiblity to treat everyone else with compassion and respect. And Jesus didn’t only talk about it, he lived it. He implored his disciples to take care of those who are on the fringes of society, the stranger, the sinner, the leper. The only ones I can remember him chastising were those who talked a good game, but when it came time to act, they didn’t.
I’ve been thinking about these verses quite a bit, given the story line that’s been coming out of Indiana regarding the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” While the state legislature has been adamant that the law had nothing to do with condoning discrimination, it seems they’re the only ones who felt that way! The bill’s supporters felt the law would do just that – it would give them ample protection for refusing to provide services to homosexuals, especially when it came to services in conjunction with weddings – photography, bakery, banquet hall rentals, etc. That’s certainly been clear from the discussion threads on virtually every Internet message board associated with this news!
Now I’m no model Christian. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I wish I could take back. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to atone for my own shortcomings by focusing on treating others the way Christ Jesus taught. So I’m taken aback when I read some of the hateful things that have been said in the discussion threads regarding the RFRA.
I’m pretty familiar with the Good Book. I was quite a student of the Bible when I was younger. Even in these times when I ‘m not actively involved in a formal church setting, I’ve started most every day with a reading … looking for a thought, an idea, something that I could hold onto to get me through the day. And that said, I have never read a single verse where Christ said, “Oh yeah, all the good things I tell you to do in my name? DON’T do them for gays!” The closest he came to mentioning anything about gays was when he talked about marriage in Matthew 19. How men and women should get married … but immediately afterwards, he said very plainly, “all men cannot receive this saying,” and talked about “eunechs so born from their mother’s womb.” Anyone who’s done any serious study of the Bible will tell you that the original Greek words used here were typically used to refer to gay men (it had nothing to do with being born sans testicles!) And that’s the only reference He made to gays. No condemnation, no harsh words, NOTHING!
So I struggle with the hatred I see. I don’t understand how a gay person merely trying to go about their daily lives threatens a Christian. I don’t understand how gays being able to wed devalues a Christian’s marriage. I don’t understand how, absent everything Christ Jesus didn’t say about gays, that some Christians take what others have written in the Bible and use that as justification for their hatred. And all the while, they’re ignoring some of His clearest teachings – do good to everyone, most especially do good to your enemies. Be merciful. Don’t judge.
I don’t get it. But that’s me.
I want to thank some of you for the supportive comments and private messages I’ve received over the past week. I’m doing better. I’ve been able to clean the kitchen and visit the dumpster with about half of the trash that had built up. Still a long way to go. It’s just a daily struggle. But I am appreciative of those who have gone out of their way to let me know that they’re sending good thoughts and prayers my way. Thank you.