What does success look like in faith? Is it prayer time, church attendance, or Jesus posts on Facebook? We may all agree in a general sense, but unfortunately we have blind spots. We sometimes slip into thinking according to the flesh where hate, self-righteousness, and anger are lifted up as values of faith! Don’t be deceived! The voices of the world are filled with false ideas of holiness and mis-informed understandings of the Gospel. Even in the Church, much of our history ignores the deeper meaning of Jesus’s core teachings: he was a taboo rebel!
Jesus presents us with a counter-cultural approach to faith, which was insulting in the eyes of his church-going peers. Jesus is a loser, by many measures. He has no job, he’s homeless, he hangs out with lowlifes and in Mark 2:18 it says “When the teachers of the Law saw that he was eating with tax collectors [traitors and scammers] and sinners [prostitutes, homeless, criminals] they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” They could not comprehend why Jesus would intentionally do something so taboo, that made him look like a sinner himself! In talking and eating with these outsiders, Jesus shows how God measures faith. In his day, the righteous did not associate with taboo things that were deemed “unholy” for fear of tainting their own holiness.
Who in our world today are the tax collectors and sinners? Who are the self-righteous that claim to know what is or is not appropriate for God? Should we talk about the plight of people who are gay and trans in Missouri? What about the high number of people who are unjustly incarcerated? Heaven forbid we listen to people who agree with the other political party! What did Jesus do when confronting these people, these individuals who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Jesus invited them to dine with him!
So many of us fail at faith sometimes. It’s okay, we all do. But that is not an excuse to go on without changing our behaviors. We all know the greatest commandment: “to love God and love our neighbor” yet we are quick to judge our neighbors, exclude them, and normalize hating them because they are different. When our love is stymied by taboos, we fail.
The lesson of the Gospel is that Jesus reminds us that we are ALL failures. We can choose to live by taboos, or we can choose to overcome our boundaries with love. If Jesus lived by the standards of the world, he would not have visited any of us. Jesus breaks free of worldly standards reminding us that God rewards love, no matter what the world says! I leave us with this question, if we are not dining with the outcasts in our world, why should Jesus dine with us?