Here is Jesus Who later washes the feet of His friends (!), describing the master who expects to be served his meal on time despite the servant’s long hot day in the fields. And it appears to be OK.
There are two other readings for today, I reasoned. Why not choose one or both of them?
Because for me, resistance is energy and insists on being attended to. Sound familiar?
So, I read the passages before and after today’s reading to see if that helped my understanding. Not so much.
In this chapter Jesus is explaining how to mature in the spiritual life. He has just talked about forgiveness which He lays out as a given for the folks who choose to follow Him. “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” And then they asked Christ to increase their faith. I think so that they could develop this capacity for forgiveness which is not so easy for any of us.
After that, I called a friend, a Biblical scholar, who has done extensive work in the Gospel of Luke. Bingo! He had both time and interest to talk with me about my resistance to the Gospel and enlighten me about some of its cultural meaning and to urge me on.
A part of the resistance stemmed from my abhorrence that Jesus would seem to okay this description of servant hood, a.k.a. slavery, and present the actions of the master in the story as normal. As a matter of fact, in First Century Palestine they were just that. Slavery had a somewhat different flavor. One-third or so of the folks were slaves, some of whom had sold themselves into slavery to experience a better life, assuming their owners were humane people. “Three squares and a cot”, so to speak. A third were former slaves who had purchased their freedom. The remaining third were free men and women.
Over time some have taken Christ to task because He never confronted slavery as an institution, though His washing of feet was in fact, a confrontation of the “normal” and thus most astounding. Recall also that the form of slavery with which we are most familiar is that of Africans and Native Americans in the history of this country. Not that slavery was a good thing in Christ’s time, but rather that our understanding of this and other Scripture passages will be enhanced by study of the culture and the times. Without this, we tend to impose our culture and experience on Scripture and may miss the point entirely. It pays to look a little more deeply.
Jesus’ expectation is that His followers will act according to the covenant to which He is inviting them, that of discipleship. His story suggests that the servants are to act as servants .And the masters will do likewise. The servants do not control the master.
Neither do we control God. There are too many times when we wish that what we do would earn our Salvation, that we control the process. There is much to ponder in the God Who does not ask us to earn our way to Him/Her; Who does not allow us to construct for ourselves a God Who will save us on our terms. Though we may try fiercely to do just that.
Nope, God already exists and the terms have been set: We are forgiven, saved, and loved.
What we do choose is the breadth and depth of our response.
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