There is nobody beyond God’s redemptive reach. No one. No matter what a person has done or how “unclean” they may be, God is still there waiting.
Tax collectors were not well appreciated. We generally are scornful of the IRS. The tax collectors of the age of Jesus were despised in general. Any Gentile was supposed to be sidelined from a Jewish perspective. The gentile tax collector even more so.
From a cultural, political, power, and wealth standpoint, the Gentile tax collector represented everything the Jewish people feared and hated. The Jewish tax collector, such as Levi (in the reading from Luke), wasn’t much better. Their only redemptive feature was that they were Jewish.
God’s grace extends far beyond our ability to comprehend. This is a good thing, as we are often too petty and malicious to redeem others.
However, Jesus’ words also bring something else to the fore, discipline. The US modern church, as a whole, avoids the concept of church discipline. There are a number of reasons, some of them cultural, some of them missiological, some of them evangelical, some of them just a general lack of training and understanding.
Church discipline requires a balance of individual and community. In white US populations, that is rather difficult. Whites, by and large, idealize individuality. In other US populations, community has a much greater strength and pull.
In most white populations, church discipline as a community is difficult, as the individual will often “go their own way”, severing their ties with the community. On the other hand, in non-white and isolated white communities, the community can be destructive to the individual.
For the church to be the church, we will have to work together to find the balance between individual and community. As the church finds its way in a world that wants to push it aside even more, the church needs to learn and embrace the community and the individual, including the roles and responsibilities of each.
1) What value do you find in being part of a community? What value do you find in being an individual?
2) What are ways you can think of that would allow and encourage people to be part of community and still respect individuality?
3) What do you think God’s perspective on community and individuality is?
God, you have made us similar to each other…yet different. Help us to embrace what makes us different and embrace what makes us the same. Amen.