Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jesus eats with sinners; he does not sin with sinners.

Ooooh what a great line!  Jesus does indeed eat with sinners but He most certainly does not sin with sinners.  Therein lies the rub.  On the one hand we hear the drumbeat of people who insist that Jesus must accept them as they are -- faults, foibles, and fetishes -- or not at all.  These are the folks who claim desire defines them and such desire is natural and if natural then divinely sanctioned.  What kind of God would plant such desires in them only to condemn those same desires and the people who act upon them?  A missing understanding of original sin screams from such a perspective!

On the other hand, there are those who somehow or other look down their noses at ordinary Christian folks who go to Church, confess their same, tired, old sins, receive the Sacrament, head home and do battle with the same weakness before temptation all over again.  Somehow or other these folks (once thought to be the bread and butter folk of Christianity) are less than spiritual because they live within the parameters of repentance and faith, prayer and piety, sin and forgiveness day in and day out.

There is something wrong with using our inclinations to evil to define us. They do not make up who we are nor are they are true or real personalities. Inclinations to evil are impediments to us and they distort who we are by God's intention and design. What problems we have when we own the desire as the defining mark of who we are as people.  When a person has stolen he is not defined chiefly as a thief -- as a sinner, yes, but not as a thief alone.  So when are person has desires not in accord with God's creative purpose and will, there is something wrong in taking those desires and using them as the blanket identity that marks who they are as people -- the lens through which who they are is revealed to the world. 

Of course we are tempted.  Of course temptation exists and preys upon even our most basic desires -- food, love, etc... No one is saying that we are not tempted or that this temptation preys upon the most basic of our desires.  But when we define ourselves by those desires we transform the disorder into the new norm and we make what is a mark of our fallen humanity into something good and even fortunate.  It them becomes necessary for everyone around us to affirm those desires (no matter how fallen) and even Jesus must bow before the altar of our desires and affirm who we are.  He must not only eat with us but join with us in our sin.  But that is exactly what Christ cannot do.

That He eats with sinners is grace pure and simple.  But that He refuses to sin with sinners is also grace -- the grace that calls the forgiven to go and sin no more.  The grace that refuses to allow sin to rule our mind, heart, and senses.  The grace that insists we are defined by more than our desires.  The grace the meets us where we are as sinners but refuses to leave us there -- poor, miserable, and without hope or help.

So the Church in her witness to the world must follow Jesus.  Like St. Paul who said he became all things to all men in order to save sin, we must eat and drink with sinners.  But also like St. Paul, we cannot taste of their sins in order to redeem them.  We must maintain the integrity of the Gospel.  Augustine recounted his misspent youth but did not whitewash the glory of his debauched life.  God meets us at our sin but does not participate in that sin.  He wears its shame, carries its guilt to the cross, dies to pay its awful price, and then freely bestows the forgiveness won by His obedience to the disobedient and unworthy sinner.  When we stop seeing sins as sin, then Christ is no longer Savior and Redeemer.  Jesus eats with sinners but does not sin with sinners.  Thanks be to God!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jesus eats with sinners. Is there anybody for Jesus to eat with other than sinners?