The Scum of the Earth
Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do...Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: `I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners. ~Matt. 9:12-13~
Are you spending too much time “doing church”? Seems like a strange question, doesn’t it? But isn’t that what Jesus is saying in this passage? The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus had just eaten a meal with a bunch of tax collectors and “other disreputable sinners.” They were questioning his authority and wanting answers as to why he would stoop so low as to hang around a bunch of losers.
Let’s create an analogy to our own lives, shall we? As Christ-followers, are we asked only to surround ourselves with other Christians? Is it mandated that we only attend church-related activities? Once we’re Christians, are we spared from having anything to do with people who are not Christians? By all means, no! Christ himself has said to us that we are to seek out those who know they are sinners and, as I read it, people who don’t go to church!
So, for me, this says that I need to spend less time inside the church building and more time hanging out with the “scum” of society. Now, this is not to say that there aren’t sinners inside the church. In fact, we are all sinners, no matter what. But why waste my time trying to further the Kingdom of God with those who already understand its significance, or at least go through the motions of religious ritual? Why become a pastor or a minister if all I’m going to do is preach a sermon on Sunday morning to a crowd of people who could probably already quote more scripture than I can? To borrow a bad pun, why preach to the choir?
If I want to be Christ-like in the ministry that he has called me to, I must seek to eat with sinners. I must find them and share with them the glory of God by extending the hand of hospitality to them, so that they might also know that they are a significant part in His kingdom. I must not get so caught up in the ritual of religion that I forget to be involved in the realism of everyday life. I must be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. I must know the difficulties and idiosyncrasies of my own community in order to be in touch with those who are lost in it.
God, give me the opportunity to eat with the scum of the earth.