A Reflection of the Scripture for Sunday July 7, 2019
Scripture for this week: Luke 10:1–11, 16–20
Scripture for next week: Luke 10: 25-37
The Atlantic Magazine offers a powerful article this month on the nature of relationships, or more accurately about our resistance to developing relationships. The author, Yascha Mounk, explores the issue through the lens of political party values and perspectives. The issue is seen clearly in national party politics, but it is a symptom of a disease that effects every aspect of our lives, a disease we could call personal myopia. This is a tendency to only see what we want to see or to only see things our way. Mounk demonstrates this by describing how people make assumptions about the beliefs of other people, and how wrong those assumptions are.
“According to the Democratic caricature, most Republicans stridently oppose immigration, hold deeply prejudiced views about religious minorities, and are blind to the existence of racism or sexism. Asked to guess what share of Republicans believe that immigration can strengthen America so long as it is “properly controlled,” for example, Democrats estimated about half; actually, nearly nine in 10 agreed with this sentiment.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans are also prone to caricature Democrats. For example, Republicans approximated that only about half of Democrats are “proud to be American” despite the country’s problems. Actually, more than four in five Democrats said they are. Similarly, Republicans guessed that fewer than four in 10 Democrats reject the idea of open borders. Actually, seven in 10 said they do. 
The problems of personal myopia seem to develop because we listen to how media sources describe other people, and take those descriptions as gospel. What we don’t generally do is develop relationships with people who hold different views or come from different traditions. Mounk offers a powerful piece of research about the negative effects of a media saturated life.
“Americans who rarely or never follow the news are surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom they disagree. On average, they misjudge the preferences of political adversaries by less than 10 percent. Those who follow the news most of the time, by contrast, are terrible at understanding their adversaries. On average, they believe that the share of their political adversaries who endorse extreme views is about 30 percent higher than it is in reality.2”
Jesus tells his disciples to live in ways that develop relationships. In fact, he sends them out to live with people as a form of ministry. 35 pairs of disciples are sent out in front of Jesus with the specific instructions to enter towns and find people with whom to live for a while. They are not to move from house to house, but to stay and get to know the people with whom they are living. In other words, Jesus commands his disciples to go and build relationships.
After a period of time, it could have been a week, or it could have been months, the disciples reconnect with Jesus, and they are filled with joy over the success of their ministry. They excitedly proclaimed, “Jesus, even the demons submit to us!” In my version of the Bible, Jesus replied, “Yes, the demons of fear, hatred, judgmentalism, and segregation all flee in terror at those who come bearing peace and bring the ministry of relationships. Relationships are the foundation of the Kingdom of God. Without loving relationships, the demons reign. Wherever people develop deep and loving relationships, the kingdom of God has arrived with power!”
This is not just my imagination. It is a perspective that comes from a close and direct reading of the text.
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near (Luke 10:8-11, NRSV).”
Jesus is clearly saying that the disciples are the bearers of the Kingdom of God. Where they are accepted into relationship the Kingdom of God has come near. Even when they are not accepted, they are to tell those who reject them, “You have rejected us, but you have not just rejected us, you have rejected the Kingdom of God. We will leave you now, but know that the kingdom of God came near to you and you did not see it.”
Jesus is calling us to a Kingdom way of living. He is inviting us to bear his divine spirit and offer that spirit to others by developing relationships. When the Kingdom of God has arrived in perfection, we will see that it came because of divinely inspired relationship development.
The Kingdom of God has come near. Let’s bring it in fully.
1, 2, Yascha Mounk, Republicans and Democrats Don’t Understand Each Other, The Atlantic, June 23, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/republicans-and-democrats-dont-understand-each-other/592324/?utm_source=pocket-newtab