Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Luke 12: 4-12
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the one who, after one has killed, has authority to cast into hell.[Gehenna] Yes, I tell you, fear that one! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”
Jesus is speaking to his disciples. The crowds around them had grown into the thousands, and they were trampling each other, so Jesus called his key leaders together for a private chat. And after warning them about the "Yeast of the Pharisees" (see post from March 5) he moves into the next phase of the 'pep talk.' Don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid. This is something I need to hear Jesus say. Every. Single. Day. One would think that after so many years as a Christian, and so many years in pastoral ministry I wouldn't need a daily reminder. But, every day, I am faced with the challenges brought about by living according to the teachings of Jesus that cause me to swim against the current of the world. Every day I live in tension with my participation vs. compliance in corrupt and unjust systems. Every day I work to dismantle those systems through my vocation, my voice, my actions, and my prayers.
All of that to say that every day I am confronted in some way by the powers and people of the world who not only disagree with me, but would be willing to cast me into Gehenna (a garbage dump). And so it was for the disciples...
The disciples could have opted out. Surely they were alarmed from time to time as they saw Jesus go against the system again and again; he wasn't backing down. He was putting, not just his, but their lives at risk. He told them, warned them, of the sacrifice necessary to bring this new world about. Not resisting evil, taking a stand of non-violence, not getting angry, unconditional forgiveness... I mean, what else do Christ's teachings look like when played out but sacrifice?
Jesus reminds them of three things through this portion of the pep talk:
1. They belong to God; they loved, cared for, provided for, cherished. God brought this world into being, brought them into being, and knows everything about them down to the last hair on their heads. God will never leave them alone; they are valuable to God.
2. In living out discipleship they become walking billboards that acknowledge who they are, and whose they are. Their lives speak about the God they serve, and others will see their lives as both a witness and an inspiration. When they don't live out the lives they are called to, they deny (grieve) the Holy Spirit working in and through them and the world. That they "cannot be forgiven" simply means they can not (are choosing not) to live in the freedom Christ offers; in the light of love. Christ offers a better way.
3. As the ministry moves forward and the movement grows, they will definitely face resistance from those in power who feel threatened and fearful of the bringing about of Christ's way. God will provide words, strength, and courage when that happens.
Don't be afraid, disciples . You are loved. Let your life speak. Stand in God's light.