Thursday, February 20, 2014

Luke 6: Kingdom Ethical Principles


Luke 6:1-11 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?" And Jesus answered them,"Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?"  And he said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." 

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" And after looking around at them all he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. 

Luke 6:27-31 "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 

Luke 6:46-49 "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?  Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great." 

Luke gives us some insights into kingdom ethics in this chapter. Kingdom ethics is not defined by rules and regulations but by principles and values. The following are some vital Kingdom principles to guide us in our daily decision-making:
  • Principle of Life-Enhancement: Jesus "broke" the Sabbath rule of "no-work" on two occasions: (1) he allowed his disciples pluck grains to eat on a Sabbath (plucking grain is work) (2) he healed the man with a withered hand (healing is work). In his reply to his accusers, Jesus stated a very important Kingdom principle: "I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" (v.9). The first Kingdom principle stated here is: it is always right to act to enhance and save life. Eating is life-enhancing; so is healing a man with withered hand.
  • Principle of Benovelence: The world's principle is getting as much out of this life as possible. Jesus' kingdom principle focuses on giving back to this life as much as we have received from God: "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back" (v.30). Instead of asking, "What's in it for me? we should be asking, "What's in it from me?" And this is not just limited to people who love you but even to people who hate you--including your enemies: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same" (v.27, 32-33). Doing good is always right.
  • Principle of Equivalence: This principle is Jesus' most quoted one but the least practised: "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them" (v.31). This is the principle of equivalence: we treat others just as we like ourselves to be treated. So, if you like to be treated kindly, treat others kindly; if you like to be treated with respect, treat others with respect; if you like other drivers to be considerate, show consideration to others, etc. In fact, if we only need one Kingdom principle to live by, this would be it.
  • Principle of Action: This principle is illustrated by the two builders: both heard the great teaching, but one acts on it while the other didn't--that makes the difference between heaven and hell: "Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock" (vv.47-48). Rock solid Christian character is not built on what we know but we do with what we know. This is the kingdom principle of obedience. Some people are so fearful of "works" salvation that they have thrown the baby away with the bath-water. What we end up with are Christians who have head-knowledge but without heart-repentance. Character is built on actions, not words.
It must be noted that the above Kingdom principles are not just "Christian" or religious values--they are universal principles. Kingdom ethics is universal because God is the universal Creator of this world.

Father, teach us wisdom to discern between practice and principle and to always act according to kingdom principles. Amen.

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