I’ve been thinking for the last few days about who I know in comparison to the people Jesus hung out with. There’s a place in Jesus’ story where the “bad guys” remark that he hangs out with tax collectors and sinners. The terms used in both cases describe the sort of people that anyone with a concern for holiness would avoid.
A friend of mine argued that Jesus didn’t really do that, it was an accusation from the “bad guys” trying to make Jesus look bad. After all, “bad company corrupts good morals“.
That’s a pretty tough argument to support about Jesus though. Jesus even tells the religious right of his day that the tax collectors and prostitutes are in line ahead of them for the Kingdom of God. When Jesus’ story intersects the story of a particularly short tax collector (read that – “traitor to his own people” or “conspirator with the oppressors”) the tax man invites the only friends he had – sinners – rejected by the religious right – for dinner to meet his new friend Jesus.
And today I’m wondering why I don’t know any prostitutes. I’m wondering why I’m comfortable calling myself a follower of Jesus when I don’t go where he went.
I can’t shake this thought that we’ve desperately lost the plot if we think “para church” organizations and “inner city missions” are supposed to be Jesus to these folks. Essentially, “let’s create a Christian ghetto and keep these brothers and sisters in their own neighbourhoods”. I’m afraid that so much of this system I’m part of and I call “church” is really just another way to give me the bright, shiny, happy life my TV tells me I deserve.