We always hear how Jesus ate with sinners, but it really struck me the other day when in the Gospel passage where Jesus is dining with tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees said in shock to the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” They were practically offended by this sight, disgusted. Who are the people of today Jesus would eat with?
It’s not hard to imagine people asking Jesus, “Why would you ever want to eat with that terrorist, that porn star, that homophobic person, that pedophile, that conservative, that liberal?” There are probably a whole slew of people we might cringe at Jesus associating with. Sadly, we hear stories of certain groups of people being kept out of churches because of their perceived sinfulness. We witnessed bitter arguments that the deceased marathon bomber not be given the dignity of burial. We hear of extremist “Christian” groups who seem to claim the right to shun certain groups from God’s kingdom and love.
Yet these very people (the shunners and those being shunned) are the ones we see around the table with Jesus. He says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus’ mercy is shown not in condoning sin, but in his hospitality and free welcome of sinners. In Lori True’s Communion song, “A Place at the Table,” there is a lyric that says:
For just and unjust, a place at the table,
Abuser, abused, with need to forgive.
In anger and hurt, a mindset of mercy,
For just and unjust, a new way to live.
Even the unjust and the abusers are welcome at Jesus’ table, along with the just and abused! Everyone! What will it take for our hearts to have a Christ-like love for the people we are most put off by?