Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jesus the Offensive Party Animal

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.[1]

Generous almsgiving may even be conscience’s last great refuge against the terror of open commensality.[2]

These two statements should not only shock us by what they convey, they should challenge us to our very core because of what they unveil. We are selfish and unlike Jesus, well most of us and certainly myself. Follow the logic: Jesus is the perfect example. Therefore, we as Christians should imitate his excellent example. Then why don’t we?
No, instead we [like the Pharisees and religious elites of the 1st century] like the dynamics of communal exclusion and social snobbery. Of course we don’t do this intentionally, most of the time. But we do it. We don’t fraternise with those who don’t think like us, act like us, dress like us, or like the things we like. Very rarely do we ever wonder from our crowds comfort zones and explore what’s out there. Nah, we like the safety and familiarity of our sub-cultures and the fact that in our enclosed communities, people understand us; our needs, fears and desires. They’re just like us. Well, sort of.
But Jesus turns the tables on this discriminatory behaviour of exclusion. Jesus acts out the parable of God’s intent, not with words that amount to little. But rather Jesus, as he sees what his Father in heaven typically does, demonstrates grace right before our eyes in caring for and accepting those whom society has forgotten, neglected and abandoned. Jesus invites them to his table, to be part of his posse. Rather than prematurely judge and thus reject them, Jesus embraces them. By inviting them into his company, the healing process from social extrication to becoming disciples who understand their relationship to ABBA and thus their identity, belonging and purpose.
This is what the Kingdom of God is like: all embracing. “Clearly his opponents perceived it as an alternative (and unacceptable) vision of Israel should be, competing with their own sense of what loyalty to God entailed.”
[3] Thus, Jesus’ actions are more than just social benevolence. These actions of grace are revolutionary in the sense that they challenge the prevailing modus operandi and force us to re-think, re-examine and re-configure ways in which we can be faithful to what the gospel of Jesus really entails.
I could push this further and argue that this was also indicative of how Rome, with it’s patronage system ostracised those who had nothing to offer the various benefactors of the day. But my point, and Jesus’, has already been made and the implications are clear.
Are we those, like the Pharisees, who exclude others?
Are we aiming to be just like the one who risked it all, and won over many?
Does Crossan’s axiom hit us as hard as it should?
What should we do now, lest we become foolish and forget these words?

[1] Matthew 11:19
[2] Crossan, The Historical Jesus, pg. 341
[3] Borg, Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus, pg. 108

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