One of the things I love about riding my motorcycle is the sense of community I feel with other riders. If you’ve never ridden, there is a common thing that happens; when other riders pass you, we wave at each other. It doesn’t matter if you are on the same kind of motorcycle, if you are wearing leather, the size of your engine, if you’re a weekend warrior or hardcore biker, if you’re a guy or not……we always wave. There are no conditions involved, and there is a sense of relating without knowing more about the other person other than they are riding a motorcycle. There is an unspoken agreement that we have each other’s backs and appreciate each other.
As simple and silly as this may seem, it is truly beautiful to me. How much better would the world be if we all acted this way with other strangers we interact with throughout our days?
In the world, however, things are not so simple and certainly not as friendly. For thousands of years we, as humans, have created lines to separate each other. We divide communities by race, by politics, by religion, and millions of other ways. Too often, by creating these segments we allow ourselves to create perspectives that designate a person’s worth (or lack of it) by what side of the line they exist. And that is wrong.
When Jesus walked the earth, this was also true. The Pharisee, the Scribes, and the Sadduccees were all experts on the Torah and the law it taught. Not many during the time Jesus was about had access to the Word, and therefore relied solely on the leaders to tell them what needed to be done to stay in God’s good light. As the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadduccees all believed that following the law to the “T” was the only way, they provided little help to people who were illiterate and often poor. Further, as they were “experts”, they often felt they were better than most every other group that existed during this time. After all, not only could they read, but they insisted they KNEW the law, and because of that were of a higher social order than the majority. The Sadducees, who consisted of rich, almost aristocratic families, had an added layer of prestige that made it easy to look to the rest of the community as “filled with others”.
Then Jesus hit the scene. He did not come from a rich family. He was not a Pharisee or a Scribe. He, in fact, was shaking up the traditions and even the authority of the leaders, which made Him not only suspect, but endangered the foundation in which the leaders had built their “line” of separation. This is abundantly clear in many scriptures, including this which is found in Mark 2:15-17 ESV
“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
To the religion leaders, communing in any way with “tax collectors and sinners” was a horrible thought. They taught that doing so would make a person unclean, and being unclean meant you could not commune with God – who they taught did not associate with the impure. They had created a mechanism to draw so many lines, it was almost impossible to live let alone create a community. Jesus, however, was clearly saying that avoiding people didn’t help them in any way, especially as it related to God.
It is easy for any of us to create a line to differentiate ourselves from people or actions we do not like. Especially in the religious context, that has been tradition for far too many centuries. Even in the political realm, we humans have created a “community” where acting as if it is “us against them” is more righteous than getting along. And none of that has anything to do with Christ or Christianity if we truly listen to the teachings of our Savior.
Further, it is clear that the Pharisees did not consider themselves sinners. Too often we forget that we are sinners, too, worthy of death. Those who have accepted the Grace of God through Jesus have been saved from the sting of death, not by anything we’ve done but by a free gift given to us. Yet, too many Christians put on the robes of the Pharisees and claim they are saved, and maybe even no longer sin or at least cannot be called “sinners”, while condemning those who are different.
But I want to be more like Jesus, who I picture would also wave if He was riding past me on His motorcycle, not caring what kind of bike I rode, what I wore, or if I was a sinner (which I most certainly am).