As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
The Pharisees asked: Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?
How often have we, figuratively or literally, crossed the road to avoid someone simply because we do not like the ‘look’ of them? We know nothing about him or her, and yet we feel qualified to make a value-judgement about them because of some superficial characteristic that causes us offence. We pay little heed to the fact that our bigoted and judgemental attitude may have cost us an enriching and life-enhancing experience. It may even have meant that we missed the opportunity to share the love, light and peace of Christ with someone in need of those wonderful things we are called to share. In the anonymous letter to the Hebrews (chapter 13, verse 2) we read: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Too often we find ourselves making judgements about others. Such judgements are based on nothing other than superficial likes and dislikes. We look down upon those whose sense of dress, way of speaking or table manners differ from our own. But, in making such specious judgements we are revealing our own inadequacies, our own superficial attitude to our Christian calling.
The gospel message is clear … it is not for us to judge, it is for God alone. We are called to bear the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ in order that others might experience the healing and the wholeness that comes from him alone. If Jesus is able to eat with the outcasts, what makes us any different? If Jesus is able to offer hope and love to those who are spiritually damaged, what arguments can we use to justify our standing aloof and apart from those needy people?
Today we are challenged to break the mould of social convention and tread the paths we would normally avoid. We are challenged to walk with those who do not know the reality of the Good News. We are challenged to roll up our sleeves and do the work of Christ, even amongst those who we might otherwise have considered objectionable and beyond the pale. And, as we tread that challenging path, we need to remember that our service is to Christ, our risen and loving Saviour.