I have a confession to make, I love “to-do” lists. I know, I’m one of those weird people who like to cross things off my lists… and yes, sometimes I write things on my list that I’ve already done so that I get the joy of crossing it off the list. It must be the endorphin rush that comes along with accomplishing a task that energizes me. While “to-do” lists are very effective in helping us accomplish tasks, there are some very important “to-dos” that have never made it on the list.
Here are a few things that haven’t made it onto one of my “to-do” lists: forgive, find a way to express mercy to the person who’s being difficult, let go of the anger that you’re holding onto, or find a way to be generous. Those things have never made it onto one of my “to-do” lists, what about you? And yet, those are things that Jesus called us to do as his disciples. (Luke 6:27-36) I think part of the challenge is that we often read Jesus’ commands and assume Jesus is asking us to agree with him, but we don’t sense him inviting us to actually follow him. Many of us think it’s a good idea to love our enemies, but when was the last time you intentionally and loved an enemy and did some sort of practical good toward them? (Luke 6:27)
As we read through the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49), our thought should be, I may not be that kind of person yet, but with God’s Spirit in me and God’s grace over me, I can become that kind of person. I’ve heard people say the point of Jesus’ teaching is to set such a high bar that we have no choice but to admit we cannot do and fall on grace. However, this embraces the erroneous idea that grace leaves you as you are. No, we don’t only rely on grace to save us, but also to change us. That change doesn’t happen through willpower, but through the Spirit’s power and work within us. It doesn’t happen through trying harder, but through training to become like him. But make no mistake about it, Jesus is inviting you to posture your life under him as rabbi and to learn to become like him. (Luke 6:40)
Listen to the story Jesus told at the end of his teaching to drive this point home, “ Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Luke 6:47-48) According to Jesus, the doing is the building. Belief is the starting point, but we build a solid life when we take the teachings of Jesus and put them into practice. Maybe we need to put things like forgive, be generous, extend hospitality, and love your enemies on our to-do list. How do you sense Jesus calling you to put his teachings into practice today? What would it look like to take one step of obedience?
Pastor Ryan Paulson