A conversation with a friend this past week got me to thinking.
Most of the time we who claim to be followers of Jesus focus on what we should say about him to the world.
Wrong focus. Wrong sequence.
We should first ask this question, "If Jesus were here today, what would he say to those who claim to be his people?"
Better, what would he say to me?
I think I know the general direction of that conversation.
Here's just a sampling:
"You need to remember the song my mother sang when she carried me in her body. You know, 'he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.' (Luke 1:51-53)
"Oh, and don't forget the advice my cousin gave to those who asked him what they should do to prepare for the arrival of the Kingdom of God, namely, 'The man who has two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.' (Luke 3:11)
"I know you recall what I said that day in Nazareth when I kicked off my efforts here, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,' you know, the Jubilee Year. (Luke 4:18-19)
"You've always seemed fond of my sermons. Remember this one? 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
"'But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how they treated the false prophets.' This message may not play well in your churches, but remember, it is the message I've given to you.(Luke 6:20-26)
"Or, how about the time the friends of my cousin John came asking if I was who I claimed to be? Remember what I told them? 'Go back and report. . .what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me' or more accurately, 'does not take offense at what I do.' And, you have to know that caring about this list of people will get you into some serious trouble, if you aren't careful, especially when you include them as your close and dear friends and allow them to completely define your mission' (Luke 7:22-23)
"When surrounded by hundreds of hungry people, give them something to eat. (Luke 9:13)
"Recall my story of the man who fell prey to thieves? Remember my question? 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' Was it the preacher? The music minister? Or, the outcast Samaritan? You decide. (Luke 10:30-36)
"Forget your plans for building larger houses to indulge yourselves! Share your abundance with those who have no houses or clothing or food. Sell what you own and give it to the poor. In that way you will be depositing wealth into an eternal account that God keeps track of! (Luke 12:13-34)
"When you throw a party, don't invite your friends, relatives or rich neighbors. No, invite those who've not had a party in a long, long time. You know, the poor, the ill, those that are accustomed to being kicked aside! You'll be paid back forever! (Luke 14:12-14)
"Be like the shrewd manager in my parable. Make friends among the poor with the wealth you have been given and you will be welcomed into an eternal life the likes of which you can't imagine! Don't love money--if you do, you'll get off track every time. Love people. (Luke 16:1-15)
"Open your eyes to the suffering poor at your own door, in your own community. Don't make the mistake of the rich man who lived in a safe, secure, gated community. He missed the whole point of life and lost everything eternal! Don't be fooled by the marketing, the media or the unconcerned who counsel you to take care of yourself first and at all costs. This material world will blind you to my friends. Remember Lazarus! Even when your churches forget or ignore my values. (Luke 16:19-31)
"Never, ever laugh off the suffering of the poor or excuse it as 'just how things are.' Someone will always be around to say that. Don't let it be you. Give to the poor to relieve their pain and suffering. Remember, as you do so, your treasure is building for eternity! And, your life will be filled with the riches that really matter! (Luke 18:18-30)
"Make sure you don't cheat, harm or ignore those around you! Understand that your life in my kingdom is all about fairness, justice and mercy. Hey, these are the central matters, my core concerns, not some marginal option for you! (Luke 19:1-10)
"Be very wise. Compare the attitude of your religious leaders to that of the very poor, like the widow who gave all she had to a religious institution with no commitment to relieving her pain, in fact, to an institution that caused a great deal of the pain she knew so well! Flee religious debating societies and spiritual country clubs. Befriend, instead, the weak and the poor as the central focus of your life and your community." (Luke 20:45-21:4)
If he were here today, I know he'd tell me things like this. What I know he would tell me ought to shape my plan of life.
What do you think?