Sunday, February 13, 2022

What Is Grace to You?

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary remarks about Luke 6:27-38, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany in Year C. Like last week's pericope, this is a difficult text. I am finding myself trying to hear it in a context where one has power, the power to present alternatives to hate, enmity, abuse, public humiliation, and so forth. When Jesus speaks of "one who strikes you on the cheek," it sounds like it could be a situation in which the "you" is powerless to defend themselves. But, when Jesus says, "to all who ask, give," it sounds like the implied "you" has the power to give or not. I am choosing to read this text as being addressed to those who have at least some reasonable measure of power. One could strike back. one could hate back, one could say 'no' to those in need, etc. I am not reading it as someone who is a victim of human trafficking, who is caught in an abusive relationship, a child with an abusive adult, etc. To me, that whole setting is inappropriate and much harm has been justified, even perpetuated, by reading this text as if it applies to those whose power to do otherwise is limited. So, while it may sound - especially to me - as if I'm doing a lot of 'splaining below, I want to be up front about it. I'm not trying to soften Jesus' challenges, but to direct them toward the right places. 

27  Ἀλλὰ ὑμῖν λέγω τοῖς ἀκούουσινἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, 
But I say to you who are hearing, love your enemy, do good to the ones who hate you, 
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
ἀκούουσιν: PAPart dpm, ἀκούω,1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf 2) to hear 
ἀγαπᾶτε: PAImpv 2p, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
ποιεῖτε: PAImpv, 2p, ποιέω,1) to make, 2) to do  
μισοῦσιν: PAPart dpm, μισέω,1) to hate, pursue with hatred, detest
1. When a pericope begins with "But ..." it is begging for some interpretation. Jesus has just issued the "Blessed are .." and "Woe to you" pronouncements from last week's text. The transition here is "But" (Ἀλλὰ), which assumes contrast, unlike the continuation indicated by the καὶ that initiates several verses that follow. My sense is that being wealthy, full, laughing, and well-liked (with reference to last week's pericope), can be a result of the kind of life given to loving to ones friends and detesting one's enemies. The contrast, as I read it, is between the pandering that may get us ahead in life and a radicalized love that approaches enmity, abuse, and so forth in a different way.
2. It is interesting that Jesus does not simply say, “I say to you” but says, “I say to you who are hearing.” In English, ‘hearing’ can be fairly passive or at least can require very little active effort, whereas ‘listening’ implies more concentration. I suspect ‘listening’ might capture the meaning here better. 
3. The word ἐχθρος (enemy) appears 8 times in Luke, twice in the birth narratives, twice in our pericope, and four other times. Zechariah speaks of enemies in Lk. 1:71 and 74. In 1:71, Zechariah says that God will save Israel “from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” Likewise, in 74, Israel will be “rescued from the hands of our enemies.” In other words, this is genuine hostility and danger, not one’s rival in the book club or business opponent. I find it troubling that we domesticate this term when we find it in our pericope (and especially when we use the language of “the enemy” from Luke 10:19 to rebuke minor ailments or passing thoughts.) But, since one must not begin preaching right out of the gate, I’ll simply leave you with the citations of the word ἐχθρος  in Luke: 1:71, 1:74, 6:27, 6:35, 10:19, 19:27, 19:43, 20:43. 
4. We just ran across the word μισέω last week, in 6:22, “Blessed are you when people shall hate you …” And, as n.2 shows, Zechariah associates it with the word “enemy” just like Jesus does. There is a troubling use of the term in Lk. 14:26 that I will not address now, but I would say that 14:26, as well as 16:13, might show that this is a relative term, rather than an absolute one. 

28 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, προσεύχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς. 
Bless the ones who curse you, pray about the ones who abuse you. 
εὐλογεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, εὐλογέω,1) to praise, celebrate with praises  2) to invoke blessings 
καταρωμένους: PMPart apm, καταράομαι,1) to curse, doom, imprecate evil upon
προσεύχεσθε: PMImpv 2p, προσεύχομαι,1) to offer prayers, to pray
ἐπηρεαζόντων: PAPart gpm, ἐπηρεάζω,1) to insult  2) to treat abusively, use despitefully 
1. This is the one and only use of καταράομαι (curse) in Luke. Thankfully, εὐλογέω (bless) is used 19 times. 
2. The verb "Bless" (εὐλογέω) is different from the pronouncements in vv. 20-22 that use the term μακάριοί.  
3. I am circumspect about making ἐπηρεάζω simply “abuse.” I do not want this verse to be construed into a suggestion that abused persons should bear their abuse in silence and passivity, simply praying that their abuser gets a change of heart. As much as it pains me to admit, I can see how someone might make that case here. The kind of language Jesus is using here is unexpected and radical, perhaps a far different kind of deliverance from one’s enemies than it seems that Zechariah had in mind in 1:68-79 or that Mary had in mind in 1:46-55. Some of this language seems to imply resisting the Empire; some of it seems to be addressed more toward one’s neighbors and people whom one might encounter in a time of need. Lexicons offer this way of hearing ἐπηρεάζω: "to treat abusively, use despitefully; to revile." Various translators offer "accuse falsely" and "spitefully use." It seems to point more toward public humiliation and shaming than the kind of demeaning and physical violence that often happens behind closed doors. 
4. The challenge of preaching this text for me is to find a way of reconciling my own zero tolerance policy for abuse with Jesus’ zero tolerance policy for vengeance

29 τῷ τύπτοντί σε ἐπὶ τὴν σιαγόνα πάρεχε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντός σου τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα μὴ κωλύσῃς
To the one who strikes you on the cheek offer the other also, and from the one who takes your coat also do not withhold the shirt either. 
τύπτοντί: PAPart dsm, τύπτω,1) to strike, beat, smite
πάρεχε: PAImpv 2s, παρέχω,1) to reach forth, offer  2) to show, afford, supply 
αἴροντός: PAPart gsm, αἴρω,1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  …  3f) to take away from another what is his or what is committed to him, to take by force 
κωλύσῃς: AASubj 2s, κωλύω,1) to hinder, prevent forbid  2) to withhold a thing from anyone  3) to deny or refuse one a thing 
1. I’m interpreting the first καὶ as “also” and the second as "and" and the third as “either” because the third one is related to a negated verb. καὶ is such a versatile word.  
2. I made that nerdy translation note because I want to avoid the real issue here: “Turning the other cheek” is often a pious way of counseling abused persons to shut up and take it. I want to say that there is a different kind of counsel that one offers to people in power and to those outside of power. It would be the difference between someone choosing to turn the other cheek and someone who simply concedes because they cannot strike back in any meaningful way. If the person to whom Jesus is speaking in the latter half of this verse has the power either to throw in the shirt with the coat that another takes, then at least some measure of choice seems to be implied in Jesus’ words here. I am truly not trying to say that Jesus doesn't mean what he says here. This is a challenging teaching. But, this text does not give abusers the right to abuse and force victims to stay victims. The language assumes more agency than those who are victimized often have. 
3. The words ἱμάτιον and χιτῶνα are translated in widely different ways, but they seem to suggest an outer and inner garment, with someone taking the outer and the person following Jesus giving up the inner garment as well. It seems to me that such an act would have the effect of demonstrating that if the person really is in need, one is willing to give; but if they are not, then taking the outer garment was unjust in the first place. And maybe that is one way of listening to the first part of the sentence. I have heard it said that to turn the other cheek is to force the striking person to use their left hand, which is disgraceful. (As a lefty, I object!) That may be one of those after-the-fact explanations that seem to show up in many commentaries. To me, the issue here is that, by offering the other cheek, the person striking has to either have a justifiable reason for striking again, or admit that they did not have a justifiable reason for striking in the first place. 

30 παντὶ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντος τὰ σὰ μὴ ἀπαίτει
To all who ask you give, and from the one who takes things of yours do not demand back. 
αἰτοῦντί: PAPart dsm, αἰτέω,1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
δίδου: PAImpv 2s, δίδωμι,1) to give
αἴροντος: PAPart gsm, αἴρω,1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  
ἀπαίτει: PAImpv 2s, ἀπαιτέω,1) to ask back, demand back, exact something due
1. For people who prefer six-foot fences and security systems, this is a difficult teaching. We might ask what kind of justice this could be. Certainly, if the person asking or taking in this verse is genuinely a person in need (dire or perceived), then it may suggest that our understanding of justice itself needs revisiting. The adage, “possession is 9/10th of the law” is often how we approach justice. “Possession” is considered inviolable, and anything that does violate it is “theft.” We even interpret the Commandments with that assumption. But, what if “possession” is subordinate to “need”? If someone needs the loaf of bread, they can have it. Period. It goes to those in need, in the same way that the landowners in Leviticus were told that the gleaners are entitled to the edges of the field and the dropped sheaves.
2. I see the relationship between "ask" and "ask back" in αἰτέω and ἀπαιτέω. Perhaps this is a small thing, but it invites me to explore the relationship and the dynamics of power. Think of the nervousness with which borrowers may ask for a loan and the brazenness with which lenders may demand repayment. That's why I translated ἀπαιτέω as "demand" instead of simply "ask back." What if - in a situation of need - the borrower and lender have equal footing. One can be demanding in obtaining what one needs from those who have plenty; One should be reticent in asking repayment from those who are less able. That seems to be the kind of relinquishment of power that Jesus is addressing in these verses.  

31 καὶ καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως. 
And just as you will in order that people may do to you, do the same to them. 
θέλετε: PAI 2p, θέλω,1) to will, have in mind, intend
ποιῶσιν: PASubj 3p, ποιέω,1) to make 2) to do
ποιεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ποιέω,1) to make 2) to do
1. This is a wooden, literalish translation that needs serious polishing before it can attain the name “Golden rule” or become a memory verse. 

32 καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσιν
Even if you love the ones who love you, what is grace to you? For even the sinners love the ones who love them. 
ἀγαπᾶτε: PAI 2p, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
ἀγαπῶντας: PAPart apm, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
ἐστίν: εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἀγαπῶντας: PAPart apm, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
ἀγαπῶσιν: PAI 3p, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
1. I’m messing with this verse, I admit. The first καὶ is typically translated “and” – as one should unless there is a reason to question it. I think “even” works better here, because Jesus’ point is that loving those who love us is easy, not an act of grace. My only problem with translating the first καὶ as “even” is because I agree with most translations that the second καὶ for sure should be “even.” The “even … even” construction sounds a little awkward, even if I think each of them is justified. 
2. What to do with χάρις? In most cases, that’s an easy question and we make it “grace,” one of our favorite NT words. But, here, the question “What is grace to you?” doesn’t seem to be a popular option. I think it is grammatically justified, but so is “What grace is to you?” Both the interrogative pronoun ποία (what?) and χάρις are in the nominative case. That can either mean that we can treat them as one structure: What credit (NIV, NRSV), What benefit (ESV) What grace (YLT), or What thank (KJV) …? 
Or, we can treat the χάρις as a predicate nominative (which one can do with the verb “to be”), which would be “What is grace …?” I like the challenge of this second option. What is grace to me if I think I’ve done something marvelous by loving someone who loves me back? Even sinners can do that. 

33 καὶ [γὰρ] ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν
[For] even if you do good to the ones who do good to you, what is grace to you? Even the sinners do the same. 
ἀγαθοποιῆτε: PASubj 2p, ἀγαθοποιέω,1) to do good, do something which profits others 
ἀγαθοποιοῦντας: PAPart apm, ἀγαθοποιέω,1) to do good, do something which profits others
ἐστίν: εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ποιοῦσιν: PAI 3p, ποιέω,1) to make 2) to do 
1. This sentence begins with two conjunctions, καὶ (and) and γὰρ (for). In some manuscripts the γὰρ is absent or in brackets, indicating some doubt as to whether it really belongs here. 
2. Having a καὶ followed by γὰρ would actually fit the latter half of the verse better and would parallel the latter part of v.32. 

34 καὶ ἐὰν δανίσητε παρ' ὧν ἐλπίζετε λαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις [ἐστίν]; καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανίζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσιν τὰ ἴσα. 
And if you might lend to one from whom you hope to receive, what [is] grace to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the equal.
δανίσητε: AASubj 2p, δανείζω,1) to lend money  
ἐλπίζετε: PAI 2p, ἐλπίζω,1) to hope
λαβεῖν: AAInf, λαμβάνω,1) to take
ἐστίν: εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
δανίζουσιν: PAI 3p, δανείζω,1) to lend money  
ἀπολάβωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἀπολαμβάνω,v  1) to receive 2) to recover, take back 
1. So, loving, doing good, and lending as a strict matter of quid pro quo sounds like one is exercising grace, but really one is just being strategic. Hmm….
2. I would be remiss if I did not point out the words δανίσητε and δανίζουσιν looks kind of like my last name, Davis. If that observation means that I ought to be known primarily as a lender of money, then I am not living up to my legacy very well. 

35 πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες: καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς. 
But love your enemies and do good and lend expecting nothing return; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the highest, because he is benevolent to the good and the evil.  
ἀγαπᾶτε: PAImpv 2p, ἀγαπάω,1) to welcome, to entertain, be fond of, love 
ἀγαθοποιεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ἀγαθοποιέω,1) to do good, do something which profits others
δανίζετε: PAImpv 2p, δανείζω,1) to lend money  
ἀπελπίζοντες: PAPart npm, ἀπελπίζω,1) nothing despairing  2) despairing of no one  3) causing no one to despair
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἔσεσθε: FMI 2p, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. The πλὴν (But) marks a dramatic turn, just like it did in v.24 when Jesus changed the topic from “blessing” to “woe.” Here it is from calculative love, goodness, and lending to abundance. 
2. The verb ἀπελπίζω seems to mean hopeless, but I am following the wisdom of the translators in making it ‘expecting.’ I’m a little confused by it. 
3. Luke actually uses “the highest” fairly often – 7 times compared to once in Matthew, twice in Mark, and not at all in John. 
4. The "reward" - if that's how we are reading it - is that we will be children of the highest by imitating the the highest. 

36 Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν
Become merciful just as [also] your father is merciful. 
Γίνεσθε: γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, 
ἐστίν: PAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. This is a different word for “merciful” than the family of words with which we are more familiar, such as “blessed are the merciful (ἐλεήμων) in Matthew 5:7. Rather than bringing a lexical meaning into the text, I think the text itself has just gone to great lengths to show what this word means. 
2. Γίνεσθε can be translated as “Be” or as “Become.” Either way it is a command.

37 Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε: καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτεἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε
And do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Release, and you will be released;
κρίνετε: PAImpv 2p, κρίνω,1) to separate, put asunder, … 5) to judge
κριθῆτε: APSubj 2p, κρίνω,1) to separate, put asunder, … 5) to judge
καταδικάζετε: PAImpv 2p, καταδικάζω,1) to give judgment against (one), to pronounce guilty  2) to condemn 
καταδικασθῆτε: APSubj 2p, καταδικάζω,1) to give judgment against (one), to pronounce guilty  2) to condemn 
ἀπολύετε: PAImpv 2p, ἀπολύω,1) to set free 2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer) 2a) a petitioner to whom liberty to depart is given by a  decisive answer 2b) to bid depart, send away 3) to let go free, release 3a) a captive i.e. to loose his bonds and bid him depart, to  give him liberty to depart 3b) to acquit one accused of a crime and set him at liberty 3c) indulgently to grant a prisoner leave to depart 3d) to release a debtor, i.e. not to press one's claim against  him, to remit his debt. 
ἀπολυθήσεσθε: FPI 2p, ἀπολύω,1) to set free  … 
1. I copied a large amount of lexical material for the word ἀπολύω. The funny thing is, it is almost always translated as none of these words, but as “forgive.” Even here, almost every translation has “forgive/forgiven” except for Young’s Literal Translation, which has “release/released.” I have often felt that “forgive” has become too religious of a word and has lost a lot of its real meaning – such as the real cost of ‘forgiving a debt’ over letting a small transgression off the hook. So, I’m going with YLT and using “release/released.” I do not, however, think this is quite what Bob Dylan had in mind when he sang, “I Shall Be Released.” 

38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: ᾧ γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε ἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν. 
give and it shall be given to you; good measure having been pressed down shaken together poured out into your lap; for by what measure you measure it shall be measured to you. 
δίδοτε: PAImpv 2p, δίδωμι,1) to give
δοθήσεται: FPI 3s, δίδωμι,1) to give
πεπιεσμένον: PerfPPart asn, πιέζω,1) to press, press together 
σεσαλευμένον: PerfPPart asn, σαλεύω,1) a motion produced by winds, storms, waves, etc  1a) to agitate or shake
ὑπερεκχυννόμενον: PerfPPart asn, ὑπερεκχύνω, 1)to be poured out over, as from a vessel; 2) to run over, overflow.
δώσουσιν: FAI 3p, δίδωμι,1) to give
μετρεῖτε: PAI 2p, μετρέω,1) to measure, to measure out or off
ἀντιμετρηθήσεται:  FPI 3s, ἀντιμετρέω,1) to measure back, to measure in return, repay 
1. It seems important to me that this verse is not a new sentence, but a continuation of the first (at least insofar as the punctuation that was added to the manuscripts see it). 
2. It also seems like Luke is using some language that is more familiar to his people than me. Having something pressed, shaken, overflowing onto my lap sounds a bit more like a disaster than abundance. I think it is a sign of abundance. 
3. And thanks to Bruce McKay for this note: A footnote to v 38 ( translated as 'into your robe' rather than 'into your lap'): "easterners carry wheat from house to house in the folds of their robes."


  1. The translation I have from the aramaic for v 35 has:
    'lend, and do not cut off anyone's hope'

    and a footnote to v 38 ( translated as 'into your robe' rather than 'into your lap'):
    "easterners carry wheat from house to house in the folds of their robes"


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