Many Christians speak of being willing to talk to those who don’t share their faith. But is that grace equally extended in all directions?
I’ve been reading Luke recently, both with our home church and at home with my family. Jesus ate with a lot of people in the gospels, and I wasn’t surprised to read of his eating with tax collectors when Levi throws a party in chapter 5. But then something in chapter 7 caught my eye:
“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.” (Luke 7:36)
The Universality of Jesus’s Approach
The Pharisees would rank high on a shortlist of the enemies of Jesus. Yet, when invited, Jesus went to the Pharisee’s home! He didn’t change his message – in fact, he soon reprimanded his host for self-righteousness – but the fact that he was willing to sit down with both the sinners and the self-righteous is significant. Do I sit down with both?
We talk at A Clear Lens about evangelism in the context of relationship. Because everyone needs Jesus, it then follows that we ought to pursue opportunities for relationship with people on all sides. Our own prejudices often reveal themselves in whom we associate with. Do we pursue the devoted Mormon, but avoid the person struggling with addiction or sexual sin? Do we do the reverse? That Jesus ate with all is undoubtedly significant in this way.
The Consistency of His Gospel
Maybe we do talk to people in all walks of life, but we sensitize the message, or avoid the more uncomfortable parts. Jesus, though willing to interact socially with both Pharisees and more public sinners, didn’t shy away from important messages:
“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” (Luke 7:44)
This isn’t to say that we never change our points of emphasis. There is a faithful way to shift our approach depending on the audience. But the key is that we do that in accordance with the needs of the audience, and with grace and compassion. The tendency to shy away from important issues by contrast is selfish, centered on my comfort. We need a combination of compassion, sensitivity, and concern for the other’s soul.
The Imago Dei
The underlying worldview here is that we have to see other people as fellow image-bearers. We can’t see them as extra credit projects for church, or “my good work for the week” or anything else. All are God’s children, and all should be treated with the dignity that confers. Eating socially is just one way Jesus expressed that. So perhaps the questions more generally are “Do you love your neighbor?” and more to the point, “How do they know that you love them?”