Who would Jesus dine with?

FJ July

Recently I got into a discussion with a young man in his 20s about the sort of people Jesus associated with. He had read that Jesus was quite counter-cultural for his time as he would mix, and even eat with, tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers, who were regarded as ritually unclean. This behaviour would have put Jesus at odds with the social norms and, in some cases, in direct violation of the Jewish laws.

My young interlocutor then asked me who I would consider the types of people Jesus would share a meal with if he was living now. I responded with caution as I was unsure of the young man’s agenda on this matter.

Trying to pre-empt what he might say, I suggested there are many groups in our society who believe they are on the outer, who feel neglected by governments in policy planning and funding, are stereotyped or ostracised and so on. I mentioned a few of the groups that are prominent in the media and I received a few nods.

I then suggested there are other people in our own lives who might also fit the description of being “on the outer” and who Jesus would be happy to dine with. These people are in our own families and neighbourhoods. They have addictions or have been deemed “undeserving” of our time or charity because they have “brought whatever issues they have upon themselves”. We may have been advised to “write them off” as they are a “waste of space”. There are other people in our lives who are just plain difficult. They are difficult in meetings, at family gatherings, in community groups, at school events – the list goes on.

I felt my own conscience being pricked as I rattled off these types of people. To be frank, I knew I probably wouldn’t want to dine with some of them.  

The young man replied, saying he also had people in his life who he found difficult to “hang out with” or work with. At the end of our conversation, I was struck by his parting words of wisdom, which went something like:

“When I have to deal with a really difficult person, I try to put myself in their shoes and there’s usually a good reason why they have become so difficult. It can be a bit easier to like them after that. Maybe that’s what Jesus did.”

I think he’s right. So, here is something to ponder: Who are the “difficult” people in your life who you would prefer not to dine with? What would it be like to stand in their shoes?


Words: Sharon Brewer

Image: Lightstock

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