Socializing with Sinners
“When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” – Luke 7:39
Last Sunday we welcomed new members to our church. Coincidentally, I was preaching about one of many Bible stories where Jesus is criticized for socializing with sinners.
This was no reflection on the nine people joining the church that Sunday. At the risk of stating the obvious, I am not Jesus. And, as far as I can tell, our new members are no better or worse than anyone else around here.
But the Bible story reminded me that Jesus was always welcoming the sinners, the unwelcome, the weird, the extravagant, the excellent, the perfectionists, the loyal, the disloyal and everyone else.
It was a scorekeeper who criticized Jesus for associating with that woman. Jesus didn’t argue. He just said, “Do you see this woman?”
Because the scorekeeper didn’t see her. All he saw was himself, his higher pursuits, his sniveling superiority and his hidden anxieties. Jesus gave him a chance to see something better, in himself and in that woman. Who knows if he ever saw either one with any love or mercy.
In the Congregational tradition, the minister is also a member of the church, so I also joined last Sunday. Thanks for having me, First Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa. I’m proud to be associated.
Now you can add my name to the long list of tax collectors, prostitutes, scorekeepers, scrutinizers, superheroes, saints and sinners who now make up the mighty cloud of witnesses who hear our prayers each week and add their own, “Amen,” as if to sigh, collectively, from the heavens, “We’ve been there. You’re not alone.”
Whatever I’ve seen, done or felt, you’ve been there, God. So have your sinners and so have your saints. Thanks for the honest company, if not always here on earth, then at least, one day, in heaven Amen.
Lillian Daniel is the Senior Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Dubuque, Iowa, and the author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough.