There seems to be a teachable moment right after Jesus called Matthew into ministry. Jesus is included in a dinner hosted by Matthew for his friends, his “homies” namely: “many tax collectors and sinners”. And witnessing this the Pharisees question this asking the disciples why does “your teacher” hang out with these undesirable people.
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.
Notice “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice” is inserted between the obvious reasons why Jesus came.
Have you noticed in the scriptures that Jesus is often not as black and white as Paul. Jesus’ words are often different. He spoke in parables, he uses hyperbole, he is often not so direct. He makes us think and invites us to go deeper than the obvious and apparent.
The more I learn about Jesus I see his teaching as rich and deep. It’s more than just dogma, and I am forced to be less black and white. Not that there are not standards, there definitely are, and God is clear on these.
But notice Jesus tells the Pharisees, and the disciples who are listening, to look into this situation deeper. What does this mean to you? How do you see it playing out in this real life situation? Us here with these sinners.
The Pharisees would relate to rules, religion – namely “sacrifice”. But Jesus says he desires mercy over this. It’s not about religiosity and what I do and give up, sacrifice – but rather what I extend, that being mercy.
Certainly, we need to be judicious in who we spend time with if we are personally prone to certain weaknesses, but the point is we should be wary of fundamental, quick, and rigid thinking from our personal perspective. We should follow Jesus’ invitation to: “learn what this means” when Jesus speaks.
Richard Rohr addresses this in reference to Jesus:
“Fundamentalism refuses to listen to the deep levels of mythic, metaphorical, and mystical meaning. It is obsessed with literalism and exclusion. The egoic need for clarity and certitude leads fundamentalists to use sacred writings in a mechanical, closed-ended, and quite authoritarian manner. The ego rarely asks real questions and mostly gives quick answers”
An example of this as Richard Rohr points out is the common teaching phrase Jesus uses: “The Kingdom of God is like”.
Jesus is alive and he is so much deeper than just words and religion. His life is an example, and he teaches us ways that are outside cultural and human static thinking. He comes to fulfill the Law.
It is about relationships, the living Word, and life itself, in addressing both sin and growing towards the abundant life.