Jesus taught us, saying: ‘But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for property back from someone who takes it. Treat others as you would like people to treat you.’ (Luke 6:27-31)
I say this to you who are listening: It’s similar to Jesus saying “whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” It implies that it is possible to hear the words of Jesus but not listen. To somehow be in their presence and miss the radical life that Jesus is calling us to. But Jesus offers these words to those who are listening. Not to insinuate that these words are only for a select few, but to realistically recognize that discipleship is not for the faint of heart. There is a cost to discipleship. Discipleship places a calling on our lives that is hard to live up to. In many ways it requires death; to ourselves and our desires. The life that Jesus is suggesting is completely counter cultural. It will make us look and act differently from the greater society around us. And yet Jesus offers this life to those who are listening; to those who dare to dream of a different way to live defined by a different set of principles.
It is a radical life that Jesus calls us to, to those who care to listen. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Turn the other cheek. Give without ever desiring to get anything back. Treat everyone the same way you hope they would treat you. How does one even begin to dream that this type of life is possible? What Jesus is calling us to is too difficult? Sure, the words are simple. And we’ve heard them so often they do not shock us anymore. But even as we begin to listen we have to ask ourselves, is this even possible? Can Jesus even be serious? This way of life is too hard, too costly, too counter-cultural. We’ll be made fun of, ridiculed, taken advantage of.
Yet Jesus continues to speak to those who are listening. And as we dare to listen we dare to dream. And we start to believe that maybe, just maybe, with the help of Jesus, we could live this out. And as we dare to listen we start to wonder, what would this sort of life look like? In the places where we work. In the neighborhoods where we live. What would happen if just one person started living this life? What would happen if even one Christian decided to embrace the costly role of discipleship and radically live out the words of Jesus? What type of future might that envision?
And what if we think more broadly? What would happen if our faith communities began to listen? What would happen if our faith communities embraced the radical call of discipleship? What would happen if our faith communities got together for the purpose of dreaming about how they could live out this calling in their time and place? What if we became more interested in living out these words of Jesus than budgets and attendance and keeping the masses happy? What type of reality would we witness to when as a community we learned to love our enemies, to give without expecting anything in return, to find ways to treat all people with dignity and respect? How would it transform our cities, our countries, our world?
“I say these words to those who are listening.” We are challenged to listen again to the words of Jesus and dream about what the radical life of discipleship might look like. And then we must pray for the faith to live out this radical discipleship for the sake of a world that is longing for something different to provide life meaning.
Meanwhile, Jesus continues to speak. Will we listen?