Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32
Last Sunday at Journey3 we talked about Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees. He was trying to help his closest theological tribe to cross over and relate to another wealthy, powerful tribe in Israel, the tax collectors.
He was not in this case talking about associating with poor people in order to help them.The Pharisees would be in agreement with him about that. Instead he was attending a “great banquet” with a “large crowd of tax collectors and others”, and this infuriated the Pharisees. Didn’t Jesus see how destructive and self-centered these tax collectors were? Jesus was associating with “those people”, the ones we despise, the ones who are ruining our country, the ones from the Red/Blue states. Jesus crosses over to make contact and to build relationships.
Sunday we watched a few minutes from a TED talk by Megan Phelps-Roper. Fred Phelps, pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, is her grandfather. She grew up on the picket line and was passionately involved in her family’s church. But, gradually, as she debated with people on Twitter, some of them took the time to reach out to her and engage her in a unique way which ultimately built a bridge. She speaks about this sort of engagement in her talk.
I am so prone to getting this wrong. I start thinking I am called by God to get my life and my thinking right. I think I am supposed to shine for Jesus by being correct in my theology, my politics, and my character. What I hear Jesus saying is “Let me be the doctor.” He wants me to be free to be wrong, free to be a sinner. Then I am free to honestly build relationships with those who need someone to cross over.
In her talk, Phelps-Roper says that she realizes that some people don’t have the “time, the energy, and the patience for extensive engagements” which are necessary to crossing over. For those of us who have decided to follow Jesus, this sort of time, energy and patience are mandatory if we are going to be used by God to make a difference in others’ lives. This is what it means to love. And this is our calling.