Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I love how edgy Jesus is.
He just doesn’t care what people think of him.
Jesus is hanging out with “sinners.” The religious folks are completely put out by this. They are deeply offended that Jesus would eat with them.
We might miss what’s actually happening here because we don’t get the culture. The religious leaders say that Jesus “welcomes” and “eats with” sinners. Back in the day, when you combine these two concepts it means that Jesus was binding himself in community with these folks. He went beyond simply offering table hospitality to the ritually unclean, which was bad enough. Jesus went all the way to being in community with them.
Jesus, perfectly holy, perfectly sinless, embraced the “sinner” in community.
Let that sink in.
Let it sink into your heart.
Let it sink into your soul.
This act by Jesus was radical. This was a joining of fellowship between Jesus and these “sinners.” It shocked and horrified the religious elite of his day.
We used to host a monthly worship gathering at a local coffee shop. It was a beautiful place. The shop was owned by a gay democratic socialist. I think that it is safe to say that a church community was not part of his community, we were the “other.” After a few gatherings there, he and I were talking one day in the shop. He shared with me, through tears, the heat he was getting for sharing his space with us. The cost that my friend bore for allowing us to be in his space was high. He loved freely and without restraint, even “the other.”
If we are going to love like Jesus loved then it will cost us something. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.
So, who are the “awful sinners” in your community? Who are the ones rejected by your society that are sitting on the fringe? Who do you need invite in as part of your community?