At our downtown campus Saturday night church service, we have men who show up intoxicated and in a poor, mental state. Is it more important to welcome them in our midst and let Jesus bring healing in their tortured soul, or should we usher them out since they might behave inappropriately? I have been in both kinds of churches and will always prefer the church that makes mistakes on the side of being too merciful against the church that has pristine manners, but is cold-hearted.
Jesus wants to question us about our manners. He sees how we treat people and the burden of expectation we slyly call ‘righteousness’. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, how can we enter God’s Kingdom? In saying so, Jesus is telling us that the self-righteous are fooled into thinking that they set the bar for everyone else. Can our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees? It most certainly can!
We get ‘right’ by admitting that we are ‘wrong’. We do not get right by insisting on good manners and traditions. Like it or not, most of us are guilty of practicing a pecking order.
In the hen house, the chickens will find the one among them who is sick and weak. They will squawk and peck at it with their noisy beaks. Eventually, they will peck it to death.
Human pecking order insists on faultfinding and eliminating those who suffer the most. We do not want to be associated with the weakest or sickest. We are afraid that we will be sullied and estranged, as they are if we associate too closely.
Jesus prefers people who are sullied and estranged.
It is really important that we hear what Jesus is saying. He is not just teaching good manners, here. That is often the way we absorb this particular teaching. He is speaking to the subtle mind game of trying to position myself for success. I easily believe my own mythology that places me at head tables.
Expand our self-absorbed thought to consider what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees. The Kingdom feast Jesus refers to has many guests that are more important than they are. In fact, God invites the people they do not allow and gives them special attention. They end up at the head table, while the self-righteous are moved to the back of the room.
God’s got a sharp eye for pride. If he suspects that we think more of ourselves than we ought to, he rearranges the seating.
God’s got a sharp eye for the sullied and estranged. He sees who naturally chooses to sit in the worst seats out of respect for all others. The one who chooses the low seat wants everyone else to get honoured more than his/herself.
God’s sharp eye sees the humble heart and draws them forward to sit closer to Him. God wants the company of humble people and bumps down the ones who we think are much more important.
What do you do with a heart like that? If we learn to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus, it will affect our manners positively and we will develop a new kind of hospitality. We will get a sharp eye for the most uncomfortable person in the room and become hands of healing to them. We will become the arms of acceptance and the feet of compassion.
God help us to humble ourselves before Him and move down a notch or two. Let us get to the bottom and work our way down. When we have the opportunity to throw a party, let’s make sure we consult God on the guest list. Who does God want at your table?