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Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
This text baffles me… Here our Lord is being accused of being one of these “sinners.”  This leads us to believe that he was around them for a good amount of time.  This was not just a Saturday mission trip where he spent a few hours in the heart of the city trying to convert the “sinners.” And these obviously were not the average people of the church that one would expect Jesus to be spending his free time with.  They were the people that are considered “the world” by our church today.  They were people who had formerly rejected a godly lifestyle, and were living according to the lusts of the flesh. 

How did the Christ get people like that to want to hang out with him? How did he stay different but not too different?  How was he able to love them enough for them to want to be with him, but not to the point that they thought it was okay to stay the same?  How did he live a life that is holy and blameless and still have things in common with the average Joe?  I don’t see them as being in constant debate over who the true God is, or if there is a God at all, or if it was okay to divorce, or if the women had to wear head coverings, etc.  They were eating… enjoying one another. 
I like to think of Jesus as my brother, my companion, an example I can follow and aspire to be.  Although, I find it hard in this area.  The only answer that I can come up with is that he was in constant communication with our Father and he knew at all times and in every situation what to say.  In every sticky situation where he seemed caught between a rock and a hard place, he came up with the perfect answer that only God could have given (“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”).  I long for this wisdom and grace that will be ours in the kingdom.  It will be then that we will be able to perfectly commune with those who are so radically different than us.

Is it possible now?

3 Responses to “Friend of the world or Salt of the earth?”

  1. on 15 Jan 2008 at 9:27 amSean

    This is a difficult question. I recently have been reading a book by Albert Nolan called Jesus Before Christianity in which he discusses at length the interaction Jesus had with the poor, the tax-collectors, the sinners, the prostitutes, etc. There is no question that Jesus would “fellowship” with these people…ie, he would eat with them. Furthermore, this was breaking a huge taboo because 1st century Judean culture was highly stratified into different classes. For Jesus to eat with one of these people was for him to ascribe a certain dignity to them with which they were unfamiliar. In other words, Jesus knowingly brook social structures in order to bring his message, his healing, and himself to the “scum” of society. How did he do that? Well, one thing is he did not participate in their sin. Nor did see these people as “scum” either. He saw in these people the future kings and queens of the messianic age…cabinet members if you will. He believed in them, that if they repented they would be at the top of the new world order when it came.

    Just a side note: Jesus also had dinner with Pharisees. In fact, Jesus had dinner with just about anyone. He did not come from the perspective: “unless I separate myself from these sinners, I’ll become tainted.” Genuine righteousness is much more powerful than that. Jesus moved in and among the dregs of society, never compromised his own morality nor his radical message of repentance in light of the near approaching kingdom, and they loved him for it.

  2. on 22 Jan 2008 at 5:25 pmJason

    The search to be godly and do the will of God, must bring us to the example of Jesus. When I think of his interaction with people, I often think of what he wasn’t-I don’t know how many Jesus movies you’ve seen, but you can see how the actors are trying to personify the jesus they think him to be. Sometimes the way they telegraph the Cosmic Guru-“other worldly Jesus” is rediculous – but then the “buddy Christ” model is rediculous too.
    He was UNDEFILED by his conscience, his heart was pure- and the security that comes from that -the Prince of Peace!- is like a magnet to those in need (I.E. everyone!) Add to that he actually CARED about their souls, and didn’t worry about being defiled by them. Leper, prostitute, madman, demon posessed, hypocrite, political figures, children, women, men, all of them- he was able to speak truth to- in terms relevant to each.
    I believe that because of his understanding of the Father and the Word, and his FAITH in the Father and His Word, he had no prejudices. The record says he “knew their thoughts” many times- how? Because he was divine? no, not the model the text dictates- but because he could see the stark truth of a soul’s agonizing for liberty, and all it’s aberrant carnal devicesto find it-
    If we can understand the fundamentals of Our Father-his creation, purpose and will for His Spirit to flow through all things in love, purity and righteousness (1 cor 15)- we can understand others like Jesus understood. The desperate plight of the human condition- and the solution from a Holy loving God- Praise God! To speak liberty to the captives! I would say our message should hinge on the Father’s Plan of Redemption (in all it’s stages) of Humankind-focusing on the soul-the seat of our emotions..I make no apologies either-the fact of the spiritual transactions that landed us all in the plight of sin, and the facts of the spiritual truths of the word of God and His Plan of Salvation meet a man in His Soul!–Know ye not it is the goodness of God that leads a man to repentance..I don’t mean to supercede doctrine or communicating the truth which God has given-but language and doctrine and systems analyses and intellectual debates are the REASONS someone CAN reach into a man and give him Hope but it WORKS through simple acts of Charity-like sitting at a meal with someone and talking with them . Eventually, God will open the door to speak of Him- every atom in the whole universe is coming apart in an effort to see him!

  3. on 22 Jan 2008 at 6:23 pmJohnO

    I don’t mean to supercede doctrine or communicating the truth which God has given-but language and doctrine and systems analyses and intellectual debates are the REASONS someone CAN reach into a man and give him Hope but it WORKS through simple acts of Charity-like sitting at a meal with someone and talking with them

    Too true. The stunning beauty and compelling storyline that is the subject of all good doctrine and theology creates a Gospel that truly has power. Jesus was not devoid of intellect, doctrine, or theology, rather full of all and because of his understanding of God he could proclaim a Gospel that has power to change lives here in this wicked world to restore them to God, and to one another. Ultimately that the world is restored.


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