Luke 6:12-7:17 as an ethical model for egalitarian socio-economic praxis in post-independence Namibia.
Ndemuweda, Daniel Shiyukifeni.
MetadataShow full item record
This study is a contextual exegetical encounter with the text of the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:12-7:17 which is an ethical discourse embedded in the Jesus tradition where Jesus speaks and acts in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized. The study applies the ethical paradigms of the discourse for socio-economic and political justice to the context of the present Namibian public economic establishment which is unjustly increasing socio-economic disparities in society. The study has therefore adopted Burridge’s (2007) ethical model of an open and inclusive community of Jesus in Luke which Jesus forms and in which he encourages egalitarian socio-economic praxis. Burridge finds this model -the “all-embracing portrait of Jesus” - in Luke’s community. It opens up to all as “it seeks to imitate Jesus”. The Sermon on the Plain is in the current study seen as the epicenter of Luke’s presentations of Jesus’ socio-economic and political ethical teaching and praxis for an egalitarian community, the ethical model which Luke expands throughout his narrative account of the gospel. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), the particular contextual focus of this study, is taken as an open and transformative community of Bible readers where this ethical model could be embraced and effect some changes in human behavior that may lead to a more fair, inclusive and equitable socio-economic community, both within the Church and in the predominantly Christian Namibian society. For necessary methodological and hermeneutical approaches to ways in which the New Testament ethics of Jesus - which are the ethical paradigms of ancient communities - can be relevant and applicable to our present day contexts, this study has made use of Burridge’s method that considers New Testament ethics as starting with the historical Jesus. The reconstruction of the historical Jesus and our access to the ethics of Jesus are, according to Burridge, possible through our reading of biblical texts and gospels which are like stained glass so that our picture of what lies behind the text is not unimpeded. This model has been employed by the current study to see beyond Luke’s text the historical Jesus who is part of the peripheral peasant communities. In his context, he encourages the families and villages to sustain their limited socio-economic power through sharing, a form of resistance that Moxnes (1988) terms the “moral economy of the limited good” within the exploitative ruling system. The study identifies the ancient levels of the early Jesus tradition through which the socio-economic and political ethics of Jesus underwent adaptations and continuation. Burridge’s method of the imitation of Jesus and its hermeneutic approach of the gospels as stained glass are in this study applied in Draper’s (1991) African contextual exegetical tripolar framework for our present appropriation. Burridge reads the gospels as narrative biographies of Jesus, presenting Jesus’ words and activities, the umbrella narrative genre in which the ethics of Jesus are not considered as isolated rules or moral prescription. Rather they are rather part of the whole life story of Jesus in which both his rigorous and unconditional acceptance ethics are checked against each other. This approach has led the present researcher to see the community of the followers of Jesus as the place where our ethics of love, mercy, and grace are lived out in tension with the justice of God, which is also at the centre of Jesus’ proclamation of the reign of God as the alternative to socio-economic and political exploitation. This study has therefore argued for the love of Jesus for the marginalized, a love which pushed Jesus to the margins, risking even his life for the sake of justice. ELCIN has been implicated by the dense empirical data of this study. Both the interviews and sermons collected in its Eastern Diocese substantially confirm ELCIN”s timidity, even silence, when it comes to addressing socio-economic and political injustice in Namibia. The study’s findings constitute a qualitative pattern that is transferable to the whole of ELCIN. Therefore the study concludes that ELCIN is collaborating with the proponents in our present government of an unjust system. The data indicates that this situation is accountable for socio-economic and political polarization. The study conscientizes ELCIN, in its prophetic task, to speak from the perspective of the poor and the marginalized, among whom the Church’s “social location” is situated as it continues “seeking to imitate Jesus”. The study suggests that the Church should shift from the traditional spiritualizing of human daily life experiences to critical contextual biblical hermeneutics and appropriation which motivates self-theologizing and local debates. It crucially suggests that ELCIN distances itself from the euphoric excitement of political independence to choose a position of critical solidarity with the state and to operate without its voice being marred by ambivalence. Transformative and liberating formal and informal education is suggested as essential for empowering the marginalized, whereby ELCIN can play a vital role. Reading the Bible together as an open community of the followers of Jesus is suggested so that ELCIN will become an interpretive community that dialogues and openly debates socio-economic and political issues in the light of its unbiased appropriation of the biblical message.