When we interact with people both inside and outside of the congregational setting, do we treat them like they are welcome in God’s Kingdom?
In Luke 15:1-7, the Pharisees condemned Jesus because he “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” This comment reveals the Pharisees attitudes towards people who didn’t strive to maintain purity in every area of their lives. They believed that faithful Jews should follow the Old Testament purity laws as close as possible even though the Law only required the priests to keep them.
In our modern society, where family meals are slowly becoming a thing of the past, we miss the importance of Jesus’ actions when he ate with sinners. In his book Religious No More , Mark Baker writes: “table fellowship played a central role in Jesus’ life and teaching. In that era, the Pharisees had brought even more than normal attention to the table. They sought to eat every meal to the degree of purity observed by officiating priests in the temple. Every Jew did not follow all the rules for purity that the Pharisees prescribed. There was, however, some spillover effect even if just in a heightened awareness of the issues. In the Pharisees’ campaign to return holiness to Israel they used table fellowship as ‘the major vehicle of social and religious ostracism….To share a meal with a person was an expression of acceptance; to refuse to share a meal symbolized disapproval and rejection.”
As Christians, how do we view those who are “sinners” in our culture? Do we reach out to them like Jesus did or do we keep our distance from them because they are unclean?
When the Pharisees condemned Jesus for his actions, he told them the parable about a lost sheep. In this parable, the farmer left the 99 sheep that were remaining to go and look for the one that was missing. As followers of Jesus, we are to do the same thing. We aren’t supposed to just open the church doors and wait for people to come to us. We are supposed to go out, look for them, and then bring them into the Kingdom. In order for us to effectively do this, we must always remember that we too were lost sheep that Jesus found. Since Jesus did this for us, we are to follow his example and welcome “sinners” to our table as well.