In a parallel passage Luke adds these words from Jesus, “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.”
The revolutionary theological content here is that God makes the sun to shine on the evil, sends rain on the unrighteous, and is kind to the wicked. I suspect that this was unbelievable to most of Jesus hearers. They knew from their scriptures and from the priests and prophets that God punishes the evil and the wicked, taking away their possessions, their land, and their lives.
I suggest several steps for all persons who wish to find meaning and orientation in the traditions of Jesus of Nazareth:
- Become familiar with the convictions and the debates in the historical Jesus scholarship over the last fifty years.
- Use this informed understanding of Jesus to evaluate, critique, re-interpret, relativize, and reject parts of scripture that do not support the life and teachings of Jesus.
- Use contemporary knowledge and analysis to understand human well-being and human suffering; take non-violent actions to support that which enhances human well-being and minimizes human suffering.
This approach to biblical interpretation and biblical ethics will involve struggle and humility. I personally warm up to Jesus teachings about God and love of enemies. I am less inclined to embrace his teachings on possessions and wealth. We all have room to grow.