The democratic thread in Luke
The Gospel of Luke, as elaborated by Rowan Williams in Christ on Trial, is written for those who are not Jews for the purpose of elucidating the boundary-less inclusivity of the Gospel. The main characters of the story therefore are outsiders such as shepherds and tax collectors. Through the narrative of Luke Jesus is continually coming into contact with these “insignificant” characters of society thereby relocating where the “center” of society is perceived to be located. By associating ourselves with the marginalized of society we join and become the unheard people of society. This of course has no “useful” outcome, but that is exactly the point. We correctly associate ourselves with the marginalized of civilization not because they are superior or morally pure, this would only flip right side up the upside down politics of Jesus, but because they represent that which we do not have control over.
Rather than placing ourselves in liminal places, it is our constant temptation and anxiety to situate ourselves with the “insiders” of society and suspend the enactment of reconciliation. To be silent and listen to others on the hand is to allow God to make the kind of connections we cannot make on our own. Listening to the stories of others is often an unsettling encounter since it is our desire to have others see things the same way we do. By allowing strangers to remain “strange” and different is to learn from the stranger, unsettling our sense of control. Conversation beyond proselytizing is the opportunity given to us to listen to others and enlarge our world. This of course begs the question of whether or not we are in a place, literally, where we can listen to the outsider.
The startling presence of the powerless reminds us that we do not live in a world that is nicely organized and categorized. Jesus is radical for us because he doesn’t compete in a competitive market, but becomes the outsider himself. As Christians, we not only seek solidarity with the excluded of society, but also recognize the poverty and helplessness in ourselves that we fear and hide from others. To adhere to Jesus’ advice that we should become like children therefore might mean our need to recognize our own helplessness and lack of control.