Mark 2.16: When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Isn’t that a great question?
The question that might get asked today is, “Why don’t you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” At least, that’s my question. Why? What happens if we do that? Do we get cooties? Does eating with Tax collectors and sinners cause us to suddenly want to dance, smoke, drink, or some other worldly activity?
How fragile is my faith that I have to exclude the people Jesus included?
- Might lessen temptation. I say ‘might’ because I’m pretty sure that it is possible to find temptation all by our lonesome.
- Makes it easier to treat them as caricatures and not as human beings. It is so easy to dislike and preach against things and people that we don’t know. Besides, not knowing someone or what they are going through allow us to make up anything we want about these people and not let facts get in the way.
- Let’s us feel more holy because we don’t have sinners around making a mess of our nice and tidy theology.
The problem is that when we isolate ourselves we are not living like Jesus lived. Jesus was in the middle of it. He was right in the heart of the huddle masses of humanity yearning to be free (Hey, it’s a great line, right?). He was the light in the darkness. He was God in our midst. He didn’t just tell us how to live, he showed us.
For clarities sake, let me address some key points.
- There are some places some of us shouldn’t go. One guy would describe some creative missionary works as, “my favorite church I can’t attend.” Such as the women that have a ministry to strippers and prostitutes. There are people that need Jesus that hangout in bars. If you are a recovering alcoholic, it is probably not a good idea to hangout in a bar. You know you.
- Getting to know people on a personal level destroys caricatures and humanizes the people for whom Jesus died. Besides, the act of dehumanizing others dehumanizes us. Jesus is God and came to live with us and like us. He humanized us. We should do no less for others.
- Holiness is not holiness that does not engage the world and help where it hurts.
Live your faith in such a way that others might ask, “Why does he/she eat with those people?” I think you will find it far more rewarding and most likely it will drive you into the arms of Jesus and deeper into the Scriptures.
What are some cautions and precautions you might offer for those that will move out into the world of sinners and tax collectors?