Our Gospel this morning is a story full of healing and faith. The action begins with Jesus on foot making his way towards Jerusalem. As Jesus enters a village, ten lepers approach him. These ten lepers are respectful of Jesus and do not get too close to him. They cry out to Jesus saying “Jesus, master, have mercy on us”. These men are sick and outcasts in society, they are begging for help.
Jesus tells these ten sick men to go show themselves to the priests. They do as they are told by Jesus and begin their journey. Then as these ten men are making their way to the priests, they are all healed. Now this is where the story gets interesting. One of these ten healed men turns back around. He makes his way back to Jesus. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus, praising God and thanking him for his healing.
Jesus is clearly pleased by this man’s gratitude but also wonders aloud where the other nine men he healed are. How come they haven’t come back to give thanks? The story ends with one of the most beautiful lines in the Gospels. Jesus tells the healed man at his feet to “Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well”.
Luke 6:27-38, Genesis 46:4-15
There’s an old story about the author and theologian C.S. Lewis, on his way out for drinks with a friend. Approached by a beggar asking for money, Lewis emptied his wallet and gave the stranger everything. His friend then said to Lewis, disapprovingly, “He’ll only spend it on drink,” to which Lewis responded, “If I kept it, so would I.”
Today’s Gospel reading is about love. More specifically than that, though, it’s about the risk inherent to genuine love. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. …love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” This is not just about doing good and being loving; Jesus is talking here about showing others love even when it is obviously risky, even when it obviously might result in our own pain or loss.
This is not the law and order Jesus many of us may have grown up with, the Jesus who commands us to do what is socially acceptable for the sake of a well-ordered society. Equally, though, this isn’t the Jesus we’re often likely to encounter in progressive, well-educated circles either. I grew up being told not to give money to beggars, because they should get a job. Once grown, and having rejected that teaching, and having moved from a red state to a blue state, I still get told not to give money to beggars, because I should really be giving that money to a shelter, and voting for the right people to enact official homelessness policies, because I don’t want to encourage someone not to use services that may better their situation, and I don’t want to fuel a person’s addiction or irresponsible use of money.