EDITORIAL: Against the culture

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”(NRSV)
-Luke 6:17-26

United Methodist Bishop William Willimon, quoted in a devotional written last month by a minister of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, said, “We learn implications for human behavior only after we learn who God is and what God is up to.”
The passage suggests a different order when God ultimately prevails. In the scripture passage from Luke, God blesses the destitute, proclaiming that the kingdom of God belongs to them.
For the hungry and crying to be promised that one day they will be full and laughing points to God at work shuffling resources, inspiring justice, applying mercy, and healing.
In the passage, God blesses those who are rejected because of following Christ, for clearly not following the ways of the world but living out a different reality, counter-cultural and intentionally non-conformist. Making uninformed human assumptions about God and God’s reign in people’s lives is usually individually uncomfortable when truth comes calling. People squirm like they’re the rich people described – the people who only go hungry as a matter of inconvenience. The finger is pointed at people who have more reason to celebrate than to grieve, who care too much about what others say about or think of them. Money, food, happiness, and respect can create a kingdom, but it will fail in the face of real adversity. It is a dead end. Denying others what is good for ourselves diminishes life.
God turns everything upside down, as the whole Gospel record narrates.
Authentic life comes when people let go of what makes them feel secure and put themselves totally at God’s disposal, which is unpredictable, without deep roots and without the kind of self-sacrifice that imitates Christ, which is what all who call themselves Christians are called to do.

NEMS Daily Journal