Blessings and Woes
We much prefer the Beatitudes of Matthew’s gospel to the “blessings and woes” of the Gospel of Luke. Even though we are working our way through the Gospel of Matthew during this year of the lectionary, the text for the first day of February, interestingly enough, is Luke’s mixed version of Matthew’s blessings.
Part of the reason we have a hard time with Luke’s approach may be that we find ourselves wondering whether Jesus offers us blessings or woes. Are we the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated ones who are promised blessings right now? Or are we the rich, the full, the laughing, the well-thought-of ones who face woes in the days to come?
We learn a lot about Luke’s intentions as a writer – and perhaps about what is in store for us! – if we keep reading past verse 26. Luke moves immediately from these happy blessings and frightening woes to Jesus’ teaching about how we are to treat our enemies.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27). Jesus offers the examples of offering your shirt to the person who steals your coat, and of offering the other cheek to the one who strikes you. Extreme measures of love, to be sure – but Jesus follows those examples by pointing out that loving the ones who love us makes us no different from anyone else: “For even sinners love those who love them,” Jesus points out (6:32).
His words remind me of the “salt and light” teachings we find in Matthew. In that text, Jesus highlights the need for his followers to be distinctive, different, “other” than the world around them. And that is what he calls for them to do in this text, as well. After all, loving your enemies is not an ordinary thing. Offering the rest of your funds to the person who cheats you out of half of them is an extraordinary step. Turning the other cheek – not fighting back – requires sacrificial love.
Are we promised blessings or woes? Do we live by Jesus’ teachings on how we are to treat others? Or are we more caught up in how they are treating us? Are we focused on our own well-being, or on that of the people around us?
Hard questions. With no easy answers.
In Christ, Terri