Here’s the reality: there are forces subtly and not so subtly arraigned to divide the friends of Jesus from Him and from each other. The disciples experienced this pressure early on when Jesus called Levi, the tax collector to follow Him.
Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners.’?” 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 5:27-32
The party has been crashed. The Pharisees are making a scene. And Matthew (Levi) stands to be embarrassed. Perhaps the music stopped and everyone gets quiet to see what would happen next. Its Matthew’s party…but its Jesus who gets in the face of the Pharisees and challenges their self-righteousness with a statement of defence crafted not on the merits of the tax collectors and sinners, but rather on the merits of His own mission. Jesus will not be divided from the people He has called out even when others call them down.
In our setting, self-righteousness comes in many forms and has many preachers. The “new” self-righteousness may not be religious, but may actually pride itself in not being religious. This self-righteous non-religiosity creates a pressure that can divide many followers of Jesus from living an integrated life. It happens on Monday morning. “Hey, how was your weekend.” Great. “What did you do?” uhm…watched the game, went hiking with the family…
What’s missing? A vibrant confession: “I got to hang out with some friends who have been accepted by Jesus Christ and consider how God is making a difference in… I’m amazed that this group of imperfect, diverse, people are drawn to Jesus and have been given life. I’m really happy to be a part of this group.”
Or whatever…but that’s the integrity test. Its in the subtle ways we avoid pressure, question, conflict, and therefore never create the space to address one of the hot deafeaters of faith in Jesus: the weaknesses and failings of Jesus’ own people. Unless we confess with absolute joy and awe at what Jesus has done in accepting us–all of us who call Him Lord, then we will rarely have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel as a way of living that is neighter religious or irreligious, moral or immoral. Unless we celebrate the mission of Jesus to us–to meet the sick and to heal them–and to call the sinners to repentance–then we will struggle on Mondays and Tuesdays and Fridays–and even Sundays to stand with the church.