Part Two in a series from James Gensberg
Carrying straight on then from my last post: Luke12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”
The word ‘Before’ appears four times in this verse. I was looking at the greek for some reason and it turns out there are actually two different words which are translated as ‘before’ which obviously I got slightly obsessed with. The one in v8 is ?μπροσθεν (emprosthen) and the one in v9 is ?ν?πιον (enópios).
WHY!? Why are they different. I had to get some help from a friend who explained that there does seem to be quite a subtle difference between the two. I’m mentioning it because I think it actually makes a significant difference to the meaning of the whole thing.
Emprosthen seems to be about prioritising. “Whoever publicly acknowledges me as a priority ahead of others, I will also acknowledge as a priority ahead of the Angels of God.” Make sense? It’s a little messy written that way I admit. It seems pretty specific though that Jesus want’s to be a priority (maybe even THE priority) in our lives, and that this should be public knowledge. The priority doesn’t refer to the ‘publicness’ though. It refers to the Jesus. Prioritise Jesus and let it show.
Enópios on the other hand seems to only refer to being in view of others. It doesn’t also carry the priority. “Whoever disowns me in the sight of others.”
In my mind, this implies a sliding scale. At the top is both prioritising Jesus and letting others be aware of it. At the bottom is publicly disowning Jesus. Perhaps there are some other things in between. Like making a big show of what great Jesus followers we are (perhaps while not even believing it to be true), or ensuring that we put Jesus first in everything but being very careful not to let anyone ever find out. Perhaps a scale isn’t the right way to think about it. Maybe it’s more like dip-switches, or one of those four way graph thingies they use to categorise whisky (right).
So top to bottom would be Public and Private. Left to Right would be Priority or not. Where would you place your dot? Maybe in more than one place? To be fair, both examples are public examples. Perhaps I’m even making it too complicated. There are only two ways. Publicly prioritising Jesus, or publicly disowning him.
Either way, there does seem to be a suggestion of ‘best practice’. It seems to be quite important to him that he is first. I’d like to suggest that far from being selfish or needy he is explaining what is best for us and for those that we come into contact with. That would make sense. If it’s good for us, and people see it’s good for us then maybe they will try it and it will be good for them too.
This is something I’ve been thinking and talking with my friends about quite a lot. People don’t want to hear us talk about Jesus. When the subject comes up, people switch off, or they default to ‘well that’s good for you’ mode (and by people I also mean me sometimes if I’m really honest). However. I do believe that Jesus has a positive impact in my life (when I let him). I also believe that whoever-else would also let him he would make a positive difference for them too. If I make it my priority and let people see, then they will see how it works and that it is beneficial and if they choose to try it they can.
Now all I have to do is figure how it’s done.
[Greek assistance provided by Andy, my friend, mentor and writer of The Big Picture blog here: https://www.facebook.com/readthebigpicture]
Part One, Many Sparrows, can be read using the link on the left. Part Three follows soon.