A Place at the Table

table set for dinnerWe 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?


  1. Thank you for these words. I work every day with individuals who gave made the wrong choices for their right answers. Thank you for sharing this. Makes me feel good I an workibg with the right kind of individuals.

  2. But these people, the tax collector and the prostitute, had repented of their sins or were about to when they sat down with Jesus. I am not too eager to sit down with an active pedophile or terrorist, and if people are honest and have common sense, they wouldn’t either. That is absurd.
    I have a wide array of diverse friends, but evil is evil. Invoking these dopey hymns doesn’t make it less so. People of good will are under no obligation to sit down with dangerous, evil people. I would never question someone about their past, and assume that most people are just trying to do their best, but if you know someone is rotten, would you really want them at the table? Be honest. It’s not analogous to the Gospels.

    • It means simply to treat each human being as a child of God, horrid or otherwise. It means walking past them and nodding or saying hi or at least just not grimacing or doing anything else. It means to pray for them — their soulwork is between them and God, ours is only to report and ask for what we are to do with them. We never know what someone is really up to inside but God does. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “act as if.” Act as if s/he is a good person and maybe, just maybe, something will penetrate their evil minded heart. I have been doing this with the building manager’s girlfriend who acts like an 8 year old on mental medicine. I would cheerfully like to (bleep bleep) but I know I can’t so I just act as if she really is worthwhile. I guess I’d better act that way!

      • By the way, while I meant report to God in my previous comment, reporting to the police is always the best way to handle criminals. Sin must be forgiven but crime has to be punished. No way should an active pedophile or terrorist or active ANY criminal be out in public unless it’s a courtroom. Not a chance.

  3. Of course Jesus would never ‘shun’ anyone. The practice of ‘shunning’ is the very antithesis of what Jesus taught. Jesus was harsh in condemning the hypocrites, and the self righteous, but he hardly endorsed sinning. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he did tell her to “Go, and sin no more.” He didn’t pretend that adultery was acceptable. He ate with people who had been prostitutes in the past, but he did not carouse with women who were currently prostitutes. The tax collector repented of his unfair practices, he did not expect Jesus to endorse his bad behavior. We can be grateful that in most situations we don’t have the responsibility to judge others. We can leave that up to God. But we need to be careful of our own behavior, and not become hypocrites of another kind entirely; the person who does not judge the sins of others, not because of the teachings of Christ, but because he or she wants to be free to sin in the same ways.

  4. What I noticed in the picture is that the chairs are from different sets – that is what happens when we bring more places to the table to accommodate everyone. Nothing matches but each one enhances the other. When will we realize that each person is a creation of the most high God and that each person has value? Jesus accepts each person at his table – when will we?

    • Lynda just want to say I enjoyed what you wrote. Also your name. I am 61 yrs young and live in sunny Fla. Can you tell me anything about yourself. You know GOD gave us Special names.

      • Unsure whether you meant me, I’m a Canadian writer. My name is Trouble according to my friends and likely God too (I like to make Him smile at least I sure hope he’s smiling oops). Sorry I don’t reveal my age, it puts me into category which is always the wrong one.

  5. Wow!!! finally someone’s got it. This has been my sentiments and understanding for a long time. But yet today we still shun people even believers from the Table of the Lord. No wonder we are at a deficit in the church. We sing “One Bread, One Body, One LORD OF ALL” and yet don’t understand the healing power of Jesus in the act of Eucharist. Thanks for renewed hope in the church. Myron

    • Read (Fr.) Richard Rohr’s books and get his newsletters from his web site. He addresses this topic daily in the paradigm that no one is excluded. His web site at cac.org is down for the moment (the I-net does stupid things all the time) but you can still find it and then sign up for his wonderful dailies.


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