Luke 6:39-49

 Luke 6:39-42  -  Jesus Warns against Projecting Evil

39 He then told them a parable.
"Can a blind person show the way to another blind person?
Will they not both fall into a ditch?
40 Disciples do not rank higher than their teachers.
It is enough that they be formed as well as their teachers.

Jesus had moved on to address specifically the leaders, the teachers, in the Christian community. They above all were to personalise the truth of the mercy of God and to exemplify the God-given capacity to love and to forgive. Their effectiveness in teaching would be a factor of their own conversion and growth.

The fully qualified disciple would be the disciple who could see - like Jesus, the teacher. 

41 Why do you notice the splinter
in the eye of your brother or sister
but are not aware of the beam in your own eye?
42 How can you say to your brother or sister,
‘Friend, let me remove the splinter from your eye’,
and you do not see the beam in your own?
Hypocrite, first remove the beam from your eye,
and then you will see clearly enough
to remove the splinter from the other’s eye.

Jesus moved closer to the very core of Christian conversion: the self-knowledge revealing the sinfulness rooted in every human heart, and the tragic solidarity of all humankind in sin.  Such radical sinfulness, basically invisible to the unaided human eye (since the power of sin lies in darkness), can only be seen and owned in the light of God’s faithful mercy and unconditional love. Jesus would address the issue at greater length later in the Gospel.

Attributing to Others What Lies Hidden in Self

According to a respected psychological school, human persons “project” on to others the “shadow” in themselves.

Emotional Reaction. It can be assumed that projection is happening when the objective assessment of another’s badness is accompanied by a strong emotional reaction: when people “can’t stand” another’s behaviours or attitudes. What they barely advert to in themselves, “the log in your own eye”, they see unacceptably and exaggeratedly reflected in the other, “the speck in your neighbour’s eye”.

According to the theory, when people unconsciously feel uneasy about some aspect of their own personality, when they instinctively feel in some way that it feeds into their sense of shame, an automatic psychological mechanism takes over and hides it from their awareness. It is repressed or suppressed into their unconscious self. But it does not evaporate or go away, and from its place in the shadows of the personality, it continues to influence strongly their reactions and behaviours.

What they emotionally object to in others is an expression of what they cannot consciously accept about themselves. It may not always be an exact expression, but is closely connected with it at some deeper level.

Towards Wholeness. The human psyche has an innate drive towards wholeness. Eventually it seeks to bring out of the shadows what has been hidden there (from the time when the person was not sufficiently secure to handle the unpleasant truth). With maturity and a growing sense of security and self-ownership, the psyche senses when it is able to face the truth. Attainment of self-knowledge allows the shadow to emerge into the light of day. As the shadow is accepted, the projection mechanism ceases. Offensive behaviour in others can be seen calmly for what it is and appropriately assessed, but without strong emotional accompaniment.  

The awareness of the annoying “speck” can lead to the detection of the “log”.

Former “judges” find a new freedom to relate more objectively to the other - a freedom, more importantly, from their compulsive need to ignore their own problem. When they are able to accept the source of their own “shame” and of their own fragility, they become free to surrender their true self to the merciful gaze of their tenderly loving and healing God.


Interpreting the Mission (4) - Actions not Words

Luke 6:43-49  -  Jesus Speaks of Fruit and Foundations

43 “A good tree does not bear bad fruit
and a bad tree does not bear good fruit.
44 Each tree will be classified according to its fruit.
Figs are not gathered from thorn bushes,
nor are bunches of grapes harvested from wild bushes. 
45 Good people produce good things
from the treasure of good things in their hearts,
and evil people yield evil from their treasure of evil.
The tongue expresses what flows forth from the heart.

Though Jesus spoke in terms of good tree/bad tree, good person/evil person, the reality is that every human person in a work in progress; true conversion is a gradual process. At any one time on the journey to wholeness, the human heart is a mixture of good and evil; it is both redeemed and unredeemed.

In the mind of Jesus there was no substitute for self-knowledge and true inner conversion. The key factor was the heart, the largely unexplored depths of the human spirit.  External behaviour, while often the expression of the heart, was always secondary to the heart’s own orientation: its basic option for good or for evil, for God or for self.

46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord! Lord!’,  
and do not do what I tell you?
47 I shall tell you what people who follow me,
who do listen to my words
and put them into practice,
are like.
48 They are like someone building a house,
who excavated and dug deep,
and laid the foundation on rock.
A flood came
and the rising waters swept against the house,
but were not strong enough to disturb it
because it had been well built.
49 Those who hear me
and do not act accordingly
are like a person building a house
on land without a foundation.
Flood waters came
and it collapsed straight away – and it was totally ruined."

Jesus was not interested in enthusiasm but in commitment, not in words but in deeds. 

Luke’s small Christian community was struggling to survive in a hostile world. Their immediate need was to survive, and to live according to the vision given them by their faith in Jesus. Their only hope to change their world was through the witness of their own integrity.

For that reason, in writing his Gospel, Luke was particularly interested in showing his community the way to live authentically as followers of Jesus, how to explore personally the meaning of the conversion they had begun, and how to express that conversion within the network of interactions in their faith community, and with the Gentile world around them.  

Careful readers will probably find themselves responding more positively to Jesus’ vision of life in the Kingdom than to the one that Luke had earlier attributed to John (3:10-14). Jesus’ approach was not moralistic. He did not give a list of prohibitions or commandments. In seeming at times to ask the impossible, he invited his hearers to explore the truth and to come to their own personal (if radical) conclusions.

Next >> Luke 7:1-10