The Sermon on the Plain can be broken down into three sections: the blessings and woes (20–26), Ethics (27–38), and the Parables (39–49); each section can be further broken down. Starting with the blessings and woes we see four blessings along with four concomitant woes. However, the last blessing and the last woe seems not to fit well with the first three blessings and woes. First we have the rhythm of the text. The first three blessings read:
I recently did an interview with John Shuck on the radio show/podcast progressive spirit, also on youtube about my book “All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.” I hope you enjoy it.
I would argue that the best summation of Christian ethics is found in the sermon on the plain in Luke 6:20–49. What I love about the sermon on the plain is just how radical it seems on the surface, it seems almost impossible; however, when you think about what it’s saying, and think about it deeply—it makes sense. Probably my favorite example of this is found in Luke 6:34–35 (NRSV):
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Over the last few months I haven’t been posting that regularly, there’s a few reasons for that; one reason is that I’ve been working on a book. The book I’ve been working on is called All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians, which has just been published by Wipf and Stock.
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν.
And in the NRSV:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
This scripture is used over and over again, by Reza Aslan types who want to prove that the New Testament and Christianity is just as potentially violent as the Koran, the Old Testament, or any other religious text, or to show that Christianity is entirely open to any and every potential interpretation. The argument goes something like this usually, the first person says “Such and Such religious text is problematic because of what it teaches,” and the Reza Aslan type responds with “well, the new Testament says I came not to bring peace but a sword” and Christians choose to ignore than, or interpret it away, so we can do the same with other religious texts. I is not legitimate to simply isolate a text in any religious tradition that may be violent and think that this in and of itself shows anything, for Christianity or any other tradition, you need to do exegesis and theology, and think the whole tradition through. So can this scripture be legitimately used to defend violence? Well let’s examine it.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”