Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 22: 35-38 (MsgB)
Then Jesus said, “When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?” “Certainly,” they said, “we got along just fine.” He said, “This is different. Get ready for trouble. Look to what you’ll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. What was written in Scripture, ‘He was lumped in with the criminals,’ gets its final meaning in Me. Everything written about Me is now coming to a conclusion.” They said, “Look, Master, two swords!” But He said, “Enough of that; no more sword talk!”
The wisdom writings found in the scriptures include many difficult sayings.
Solomon, in his famed Book of Ecclesiastes, states that there is ‘a time to love and a time to hate, a time to war and a time for peace.’ (3:8) For peace-loving Christians, these words can stir up more questions than answers.
In America, it seems as though we either have those who believe in toting guns everywhere we go or those who are proponents for complete gun control. When it comes to war, we have only two choices, those who want complete disarmament or those who want us to bomb our way into world peace.
Too bad not many of us Christians in America are familiar with what I call the radical middle. The radical middle is a place of tension found between two apparently contrary points of view. Far from being a milk-toast compromise, the radical middle is a unique place in life where one uses common sense, wisdom, and a good portion of God’s help in deciding which of two contrasting options is the best choice for the time at hand.
A good example of the radical middle is the way Jesus works the problem found here in today’s text. Under ‘normal’ conditions Jesus has asked His disciples to travel light as they participate with Jesus’ Kingdom ministry across the highways and bi-ways of Israel. No weapons are needed. Traveling light is the word of the day. And for three years, this approach to ministry works quite fine, thank you, for Jesus and His friends.
But as of Thursday evening, Passover 33 AD, the situation has greatly changed for Jesus and His band of traveling troubadours. Violence and treason are now lurking behind nearly every street corner of Jerusalem. Judas, one of their very own, has now betrayed them into the hands of the Temple guards and it is now a time to be on your toes.
As I see it, it’s the changing circumstances of life that allows Jesus to be flexible with His views on self-defense. For most of His three-year ministry, the idea of carrying a weapon is taboo. Under normal conditions, which did include some pretty intense times, Jesus refuses to live life by the sword. And, if we look carefully here at Jesus’ words, He’s still not suggesting that His disciples go out and store up an arsenal of weapons. But He is, in wisdom, saying that there are certain times when wisdom calls for self-protection. And Passover 33 AD is one of those times.
So the radical middle is a place where wisdom trumps tradition. Where listening to God in order to get specific instructions for the immediate moment outweighs the presumptions we Christians can make. Presumptions that are based on tradition and human judgments.
As Solomon so wisely states, there is a ‘time’ for everything in and under heaven.
So I wonder what it might look like in today’s tumultuous times to draw from God’s wisdom versus acting out of our pre-conceived traditions. For those who say, ‘walk softly and carry a big stick,’ God just might be telling us that it’s time to lay down the big club. And for those who are for peace at all cost, maybe the Lord might be saying to make sure you have a small slingshot in your back pocket, just in case a Goliath steps into your world.
The radical middle. A willingness to believe that opposites don’t always have to be at odds with one another. A willingness to listen carefully for specific direction for specific times. A willingness to let Jesus direct our decisions on a moment-by-moment basis. More of Him. Less of us.
My prayer: Lord, from what I read about Your situation in Jerusalem 33 AD, it’s easy to understand how even a peace-lover like You had the wisdom to tell Your disciples to be adequately prepared for violence and treachery. Holy Spirit, please lead us into a similar wisdom of the radical middle, where we listen carefully to You for the right decisions in the midst of changing, tumultuous times. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what has been my typical response to things like war and violence? While both approaches (peace or self-defense) have their merits, what is God specifically saying to us ‘in such changing times’? Since God’s word indicates that there is both a time for peace and a time for war, what ‘time’ is it now?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through Luke’s Gospel?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?