We are relational beings. That's why even when people are stranded on islands in literature they inevitably end up talking to coconuts or making friends with cannibals. But sometimes relationships can be RIDICULOUSLY difficult...especially if you're friends with a cannibal. Relationships are so complex and intertwined that it can be very hard to know how to handle them. There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, because every single relationship we have is different. However, there are certain principles that will NEVER change whether it's a:
- romantic relationship
- a relationship with your parents
- or children
- or siblings
- or other obnoxious family members
- with coworkers who drive you up the wall
- a boss who's hard to please
- people in church
- even the people we pass on the street.
I'm going to throw this out there: right now the gospel of Luke is probably my favorite book in the Bible! That'll probably change when we begin studying another book in our Bible study once we're done with this one, but there is such a richness and depth in studying and comparing the gospels and Luke is what I've been focusing on. When you dig deep into the gospels, understanding where the writers are coming from, and who their original audience is, we can learn so much about what they were trying to communicate about our Savior, the Son of God! As we've studied Luke, I've begun to develop a picture of how He views people and how He wants us to do the same thing.
First off, let me give you somethings to guide you when YOU study Luke so that you understand where I'm coming from:
Some Major Themes:
- The Kingdom of God is not what you'd expect.
- Jesus reaches and accepts those who are generally looked down upon or rejected.
I see these two things over and over again as I study Luke, and the two constantly overlap and connect with each other.
These themes also make sense knowing a little about Luke.
Luke was not one of the original disciples.
He was a physician.
He was a companion of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Most likely, he was a Gentile, because of his name and the fact that Paul doesn't include him in the list of the circumcision in Colossians. If so, he was the only Gentile writer of the Bible.
It makes sense that Luke would be giving a picture of Jesus' kingdom which focuses on accepting those who aren't generally accepted, just as he himself was accepted by Jesus when he wasn't part of the Jewish nation.
As we read through Luke we see a focus on women, children, Samaritans, tax collectors, diseased, Gentiles (like the centurion and Legion), widows, etc. Even in just a comparison of the birth stories between Matthew and Luke, we can see the writers' different focuses.
- Tells the story from Joseph's perspective
- Starts out with a Hebrew genealogy tracing from Abraham (the father of the Jews) to Jesus
- Visitors to Jesus are the magi or wise men bearing precious gifts
- Herod the king is jealous of this newborn king and orders the slaughter of the innocents
- Tells the story from Mary's perspective
- Ends with a genealogy that tracks backwards from Jesus all the way back to Adam (the father of all mankind)
- Visitors first told of Jesus' birth are lowly, uneducated shepherds
- Mary and Joseph are portrayed as poor, but recognized and told by influential people like Elisabeth, Zechariah, Anna, Simeon, and the angel Gabriel, that Jesus is the one who is coming to bring about the kingdom of God in which all will be saved.
Do you see a pattern? Matthew focuses on Jesus as the Jewish messiah who fulfills the prophecies and has come as the King of the Jews, and what that kingdom represents to His followers! Luke focuses on Jesus as the accessible savior of all mankind!
Okay, so you may be saying, That's interesting, but what does that have to do with me? I'll focus in on a story about Jesus and how he treats people that's unique to Luke and then tell you what he says about how we're supposed to treat people.
In Luke 7, we find this very interesting story:
Luke 7:36-50 KJV
(36) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.
(37) And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
(38) And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
One thing Luke is also very fond of is contrasting those who should get it but don't, with those who shouldn't get it, but do. We have a classic example here. Here's a Pharisee who knows the law inside and out and should understand the character of God, inviting Jesus in, and here's a woman who Luke only classifies as a sinner, (which makes me think her sin was very in-your-face and obvious) and shouldn't know anything about God, who also comes and begins weeping with conviction and washing Jesus' feet with tears, and wiping them with the hairs of her head, because she doesn't know any better, kissing his feet, and anointing them with ointment. The stage has been set. These two characters are already a stark contrast. The clean, lofty Pharisee with the dirty, lowly sinner woman.
(39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
This is a very significant part of the story. When the Pharisee looks at the woman, he sees one of his theological classifications. (We all have them.) And as he looks, he thinks that if Jesus were a prophet he would know who she is...he would know that she is a sinner! In reality, Jesus knew who she was better than even Simon, as we'll see, but let's look at his response to Simon.
(40) And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
I love the way Jesus answers him first of all. The Pharisee only speaks WITHIN himself and Jesus answers what he was thinking, kind of proving that He has more than prophetic abilities to know about people. But I also love the way Jesus answers him. Sometimes we can get excited when Jesus bashes the Pharisees and say, "Yeah, that's what I want to do!" But even though Simon's thinking is wrong in this verse Jesus answers him gently, and tries to reach his heart with a story. Also, Luke has just been referring to him as 'a certain Pharisee', but Jesus addresses the certain Pharisee by name. This shows me that he cares about this Pharisee's soul.
(41) There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
(42) And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
(43) Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Jesus uses a story to reach his heart...now check this out.
(44) And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
(45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
(46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
(47) Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
I love this! First of all, look at verse 44...Jesus turns TO the woman. He's looking at the woman at this point, but he's still talking to Simon. And he asks this question...I always glossed over this before, but it jumped out at me when I read a book by Michael Card on this subject. Jesus asks, "SEEST thou this woman?" You were looking at this woman, Simon, you placed her in a theological category in your mind, but do you really SEE her? Do you see her for who she is? And in turn, do you see Me for who I am? She gets it. You didn't even treat me with common courtesy and dignity. But this repentant woman who needs forgiveness of sin loves me MUCH. It wasn't that Simon didn't have many sins to be forgiven...it was that he perceived his debt as small, while she realized how great her sin was, so she loved much. It was a difference in perspective. And Jesus turns to this woman and sees her for who she is, a woman with a name, and responds like this:
(48) And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
(49) And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
(50) And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Jesus looked at the woman and saw her for who she was and wanted Simon to get that perspective too. The end result of the way that Jesus sees her is that her faith saves her and she is forgiven of her sins! The question this immediately prompts is do we see her the way Jesus did? How do we see people? Do we see them the way Jesus did or do we automatically put people into preconceived categorized boxes we have constructed for them?
Our problem is that we always seem to think certain people are exceptions. If they treat us in a certain way and they know better, then we don't need to show them all the love and mercy that God shows us. But look at the way Jesus describes the way people in the kingdom of God are supposed to act:
Luke 6:32-36 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. (33) And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. (34) And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. (35) But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (36) Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. KJV
The whole passage is absolutely crucial to read to understand how He wants us to think of and treat people, from who He considers blessed and who He pronounces woe on versus our natural expectation of who is blessed, all the way to His warning against hypocritically pointing out other people's small faults in the face of your own. So you should definitely go study up on that passage ;). But these verses highlight that He expects us to treat people His way that we naturally don't want to. Our enemies, sinners, those from whom we will probably receive nothing. Why does He expect us to do this? What justification is there for possibly living this incredibly difficult life? Because then we will be the children of the Highest. For HE is kind to the UNTHANKFUL and to the EVIL the very two reasons I most often hear people cite as justification for why it's okay for them to treat certain people poorly. The standard of our mercy, should be our Father who is also merciful to US. How do we learn how we treat people? Jesus, the image of the invisible God. If we look at Him, we see the Father, so as we study the way He lives His life, we will learn how to treat people. As you look at your relationships...in every context with any kind of people...ask God to give you His heart for them. Ask to see them the way that He sees them. He will show you.