Sometimes, we forget that we live in a world that’s very different than the first-century. Not only did first-century folks live differently than we do, but they also thought differently than we do. This means that they structured their world—politically, religiously, economically, etc.—as a Roman Household, what historians call a patron-client relationship. So, even when Jesus is talking about love, we can’t ignore this dynamic. Fortunately for us, The Godfather movies can help us translate.
- The Roman world—and the Roman household—is structured around what we call a patron-client relationship. The opening of The Godfather is a perfect example of how this worked.
- A patron would do favors (in Greek, χάρις or “grace”) for his clients, who, in turn, were expected to be loyal (in Greek πίστις or "faithful").
- To love (ἀγαπάω) is properly understood as “attachment” to some group: your family, your village, your ethnic group, or to the patron-client relationship. It was not an internal, psychological state as we think of it today. It should always be understood as “group” language.
- Likewise, doing “good” or “lending” (in Luke 6:31-36) should also be understood within the context of the patron-client relationship.
- In Luke 6, Jesus is not just talking about being a “good person” or being “kind” to those you don’t like. Instead, he’s reorienting our entire outlook on life, including how we make our living. It’s a challenge to live our lives in such a way that God is our patron and we completely walk the Way by depending on him.
What is The Way?
Fr. Dustin Lyon explores scripture to rediscover Christianity so that we can walk in the Way of the Lord.