Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sin, Faith, Duty, Gratitude - Luke 17:1-19 (part 1)

(Click here to read Luke 17)

Everything we have comes from God. It is by his grace that we continue to live each day. Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily provision (Luke 11:2-4). He says that we will be clothed and fed by our loving father, and that this is so sure we can abandon all anxiety over it (Luke 12:22-34). In the light of eternity, we also remember that it is by the power of the gift of Grace offered in the life of Jesus that allows us salvation and life with God. He is pleased to plant within humanity the Holy Spirit, through which his Kingdom grows on earth.

All of this is much easier to remember when we are poor or hungry, than when we find ourselves fed. When we leave corruption, and receive forgiveness like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), our awareness of the infinite and all sustaining power of God is acute.

But for many of us (many of us who have access, time, and literacy to read a blog) our lives aren't lived primarily in desperate situations and rescues. In the day to day, it's easy to forget that we are forgiven, healed, provided for, and free because of the generous gift of God. We have an alien grace, an alien righteousness. It doesn't come from us. We have no right to judge others or hold unforgiveness toward them. We are free to be generous and kind, since we have been given such an overabundance of generosity and kindness. We can be merciful, as our heavenly father is merciful.

Jesus teaches his disciples that sin is a real part of our lives and our relationships, and that it is a horrible thing (Luke 17:1-6). Intentional and malicious sin and deception is under God's heavy judgment. However, in love and humility we should act graciously to one another when offenses happen. As heinous as our sins are to one another, we must never cease to seek reconciliation and offer forgiveness. We have been forgiven. We can forgive. We are not the judge.

The disciples rightly respond by asking Jesus to increase their faith. It is in faith by the power of God that we are able to forgive as God does (see Luke 15 an my notes for more). Jesus assures them that they will be given the faith they need. If our faith can move a mulberry bush, it can overcome any obstacle to forgiveness.

Jesus digs deeper as he reminds his disciples that they are servants of the God that sustains them (vv7-10). The duty of a servant is to do what the master commands. This is not special or extraordinary. One does not expect personal show of gratitude from their supervisor for a task for which they receive a paycheque. Such is expected. In the same way, forgiveness of our brothers and sisters is our normal faith expressed, not at all beyond the line of duty. God has given us extraordinary grace. To extend that grace to others is just what we do. It is expected. It is necessary.

We are not unlike the ten people with leprosy who beg Jesus for healing (vv11-19). Because of their leprosy they lived outside of society, banished to quarantined camps of others similarly dying of disease and poverty. They beg Jesus for mercy, and it is exactly mercy that they need. Jesus shows them mercy, and tells them if they go show themselves to the priest, they will be healed, and pronounced clean by that priest. This would allow them to enter back into the city and normal life again.

The ten people with leprosy leave and find they've been healed. One of them returns to Jesus to offer thanks. Instead of responding with surprise or joy at the one who would cone to offer thanks, he is sad the other nine are not with him. A simple thankyou is very little to expect from someone saved from abject poverty and certain painful death.

This is also the nature of our salvation. We have been saved from destruction, from the corrupt powers of this age, and freed to live according to justice and peace. The provision God promises us allows us to seek and give love, and to abandon the selfish and vain pursuits of the world.

Let us use the faith we've been given to do the least, to act in forgiveness and grace to our brothers and sisters. To be grateful in all we have. To walk humbly, remembering that it is God's goodness that we are reflecting. Let us praise God in all things.


vv7-10 is a hard teaching about humility.

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