Inclusion and Offense: How Jesus Sets the Tone for Kingdom Living

How does Jesus set the tone for our community life? In the good news stories, we are startled to see that jerks, thieves and tramps felt comfortable around Jesus. Many followed him. It doesn’t say these people had reformed, turned nice, become pleasant or even repentant. Just that they followed Jesus.

And as a result, clean-living folk—Bible-reading, Temple-attending, Yahweh-worshiping folk—did not feel comfortable hanging around with Jesus. Offended, they were. Ticked off. Annoyed.

And what did Jesus do at that point? Did he back down, get all religious and stand-offish with his street friends? No. In fact, he set the kingdom tone by offending the “good people” in favour of the unsavoury.

“I’m with them,” Jesus said.  “I’m for them.”

Jesus is the one who must set the tone for our community life.  So, we must ask, who is comfortable hanging around with us? This is personally challenging, but I want to ask it about our church gatherings.  Would the kind of people who hung around Jesus at Levi’s house feel comfortable hanging around with his people (his Body!) as they gather together today? Here, in the Erickson Covenant church community?

Week after week, their presence or their absence tells us the answer. Do they feel comfortable? Do they feel welcome? Do they even know we exist?

But friends, if Jesus is for them, how can we not be?  If Jesus was one of them, why are we not? Could we envision a church where people who used to hang around with Jesus—shattered, broken, messed up people—could start to hang out with him again?

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
~ Mark 2:15-17

~ Tom Greentree


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