Extending Our Friendships
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2, ESV)
The Tour, whether it be the PGA, LPGA, or any of the smaller ones, is a unique group of people from different cultures and backgrounds striving for a common goal through golf. Within this closed community, players and caddies gravitate toward others who share similar views, interests, and lifestyles. When I played, my closest friends were fellow followers of Jesus. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t friendly with other players, but with the limited time available outside of practicing or competing, I chose carefully who I shared meals with away from the course. And often I ate alone.
Country club communities are not much different. Whom do you spend the most time with at your club? Do you play with the same group every week? Whom do you dine with? What about other social activities—bridge, tennis, fundraisers, tournaments?
We all have the tendency to habitually do what feels most comfortable and safe. I’m not suggesting this is wrong; we need a small inner circle of friends. Fellow sojourners we trust. Out of the twelve disciples, Jesus had his inner circle—Peter, James, and John. Along with his disciples, Jesus also spent a large portion of his ministry with sinners (which is all of humanity), as the Pharisees so pointedly named them.
In the ancient period, sharing a meal was a sign of social acceptance and love. Eating together didn’t mean every person at the table agreed on all issues of their day. When Jesus was present at these meals, a playful dance between conviction and love filled the room. Differences existed, but they were not the main event.
Food is a universal need for all people. Jesus embodied truth and grace every time he ate with the poor, broken, and hurting people he encountered. In doing this, Jesus turned the world of the religious Pharisees upside down with his counter-cultural intentionality. Jesus did not just tell stories, he lived out his stories.
I still have a lot to learn about Jesus and the stories he told, but more importantly I want to always be learning how to embody them. I want to love those on the outside like Jesus did. I need my inner circle of friends and I need to see beyond what is comfortable and safe.
As the 2020 Lenten season (six-week period of reflecting on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) begins, I am choosing to meditate on the words of Jesus in the four gospel narratives. I want his stories to permeate my heart in such a way that I can’t help but live them out. I already know that I will be looking for opportunities to share a meal with someone new, someone outside of my comfort zone.
How do you want to engage the stories of Jesus differently?
February 27, 2020
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