One more quote from The Shadow of the Galilean by Gerd Theissen.
[Jesus] goes around in dubious company; with drunkards, prostitutes, cheats. That’s not forbidden. We have respect for anyone who brings a sinner back on the right way. We know that God’s mercy is extended to those who fail. We rejoice over the conversion of those who are wicked. But he eats with them without making sure that they have turned from their previous ways of life. He makes no demands on them. he hopes that they will come to repent of their own accord! I call that carelessness. Perhaps he helps some people in that way, but what sort of effect will it have on many others? Won’t they ask why they have to strive to do good? If Jesus is right, God is already happy with me as I am.”
We like Jesus, but gosh, we don’t like his methods. We humans have a natural theology that runs our lives. It’s an “if…then” theology. If I behave, then I will be rewarded. The focus of if…then is ourselves. You see this in the quote above. It screams out with the word “but” in the middle of the passage.
This passage could have been taken from nearly any time period since Jesus walked the earth. We’ve all heard such statements haven’t we?
Yet, Jesus goes right on eating with drunkards, prostitutes, and cheats. very unseemly company. Maybe Jesus knows something that we don’t. Maybe Jesus knows that if we go in to an interaction with someone else full of judgement, we’ll never get anywhere with that person. And why should a person like that change when we approach them in judgement. We’ve already determined they are guilty, so what’s the point – do we really believe that change is possible?
But Jesus approaches these people differently – with open arms and with a meal. He welcomes them, invites them to eat with him, to hear him. He invites them to a new life.
That’s far different than saying – you better change or else.
New life. It’s a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning. That’s what Jesus offers the drunkard, prostitute, and cheat. It’s also what he offers each one of us. How will we respond?