“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
The Pharisees were the religious leaders. They were experts on the scriptures and religious law. They practiced strict religious practices in order to be more “spiritual” and often did these religious practices in the sight of others in order to appear more “spiritual.”
When Jesus was on this earth he was incredibly harsh on the Pharisees. He was down right mean. In the past, while reading through the gospels, I never identified with the Pharisees. I always identified with the sinners or the sick people. I would say I still mostly identify with the sick people. But the older I get the more I start to identify with the Pharisees. More I realize parts of myself that have become more intolerant to certain people. The more my “religious” practices have a tendency to become more ritual, habitual rather then a desire for intimacy with my creator.
There is sometimes a time we need to segregate ourselves from certain people for God to heal us, give us rest and train us. But this time of seclusion from certain people is normally temporary. For after someone is healed up, rested and trained it’s time to go back out to building relationships with others that need Jesus. We as Christians should not be secluding ourselves from sinners. We should be healing them.
I have meet people who were Christians that have judged me for befriending certain people. I meet those who have discouraged me from associating with certain people. I am reminded that this is exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus. But I am also reminded that I myself have separated myself from certain people that needed help. I have acted as a Pharisee to others.
We sometimes have to walk a tricky line between not exposing ourselves to people that will cause us to fall into sin yet not segregating ourselves from those we deem as sinners. To me this is the difference between boundaries and living in a bubble. We have to know ourselves and our weaknesses so as to not cause ourselves to fall to temptation but also not live in a bubble judging and segregating ourselves from those we deem as sinners like the Pharisees.
We need to know our temptations, know how to avoid them when possible and surround ourselves with those who can help us with those weaknesses. But we also need to know our strengths. Know who it is, which people who you can share Jesus’s love and healing that do not cause you to stumble. Jesus never sinned. He never fell to temptation therefore he did not limit himself. Unfortunately we are not Jesus. We do fall to temptations. It’s best to know those temptations and avoid them when possible. That being said our temptations and places we stumble can change over time.
Let’s not be like the Pharisees. But let’s also flee from temptation. May God show us the difference. Amen.