Summary: Jesus ate with sinners. We have likewise been called to dine with derelicts!
Dining With Derelicts, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. "Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
What is the “job” of the Christian? Is it to serve on boards of the church? Is it to regularly attend the worship service? Is it to tithe and support the local church financially? Is it to read the Bible and pray? To all of these: YES!
All of these are true. But, they are the outgrowth of the central and core principal of the Christian life. “Our job is to love people we don’t have to love.” (Keith Miller quoted in Men of Integrity.)
We don’t have to love one another! Many people live in isolation; not loving other people. Many people live in seclusion; not knowing how or who to love.
Others live so completely unto self that the only love they have is the love of self, the love of pleasure, the love of money, or some other idolatry. We were made to love. It is central to our created humanity.
We were made to live in connection: in covenant with God and one another!
“A true Christian is a sign of contradiction—a living symbol of the Cross. He or she is a person who believes the unbelievable, bears the unbearable, forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable, is perfectly happy not to be perfect, is willing to give up his or her will, becomes weak to be strong ... and finds love be giving it away.” (Joseph Roy, Leadership)
This morning our focus will be on the way that Jesus loves the unlovely and commands – invites – us to do the same. The key sentence in today’s Scripture reading? “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them…”