Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
What kind of people do we want in church? What kind of people do we want to encounter in our lives? Day after day I am bombarded by articles with titles like “The Top Ten Ways To Get Millennials Into Church” or “Why Churches Are Losing Young Families” from concerned people within the church. Similarly, because I am considered a “Young Adult Clergy Person” I am often asked (as if I have some magic answer) “What can we do to get young people to come to church?” Our general church culture is consumed with this desire to get younger people sitting in the pews, and therefore makes the assumption that bringing younger people in will fix everything.
Jesus, however, drew in a different kind of crowd.
Through the proclamation of God’s kingdom, and through radical acts of healing, Jesus’ ministry brought in all the tax collectors and the sinners. They, the kind of people we would rather ignore or complain about, were the ones drawn to hear what Jesus had to say. They dropped their daily tasks to discover what God incarnate was really up to.
We, however, want our churches and our lives filled with “good” people. The kind of people who have their lives figured out, pay their taxes, and love their children. We want people with open and uncluttered schedules who can serve on different church committees and can volunteer to work in the church nursery on Sunday mornings. We want people who will sit quietly in the pews during worship and listen intently without questioning what we do.
Can you imagine what the church (or our lives) would look like if we did our best to attract the same kind of people that Jesus did? What would we have to change in order to draw them in, and what kind of expectations would we have to crucify in order to love them with Christ-like love?
The larger community rejected tax collectors and sinners during the time of Jesus. They were viewed with suspicion and were kept at a distance. And yet Jesus offered something they wanted to hear. Who do you view with suspicion? Who are the tax collectors and sinners of our day? How would you feel if they showed up in church on Sunday?