Mark 2: 13 +
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I wonder how the disciples felt being in the home of a tax collector eating with "sinners"? Were they uncomfortable? Did they struggle for safe discussion topics? Did the "sinners" feel uncomfortable around these religious disciples? Were they afraid of being judged?
I happened to get a call to do a funeral for a man who owned a local bar and the reception following was at his business. Honestly, I haven't been to a bar that doesn't serve food since college. I'm not sure how to act, what to talk about. One of the bartenders came over to tell me that I did a nice service, and mentioned that he was uncomfortable with all these "others" in his bar. (meaning me and the parents and people in suits) He asked if I felt funny too and I had to admit that I did. We were uncomfortable with each other because we live in a world where there are "good people" and "bar people" and it was only because of a funeral that we were mixing.
As I sat there, struggling to chit chat with exotic dancers and bartenders, I wondered how Jesus felt. He probably didn't see people by their profession, but saw them just as children of God in need of love. I tried to do the same, and I confess that I need more practice. And it occurred to me that if I stay safe and comfortable in the restaurants and coffee shops that "people like me" go into, then I will never have a chance to practice being like Jesus. I need to go into those places to get to know people and to be known so that they will become comfortable with "religious people" and I will be comfortable with them. And in getting to know each other we can help one another to see each other as children of God rather than the labels of this world.
I resolved that this would not be the last time I would go to that bar. I would go back and work at being non-judgmental and loving as Jesus teaches us to be and I think I will check out some of the other places around the church too. This is our neighborhood and I claim it all for God and for love, every corner, no exceptions!