Your Teacher Eats with Tax Collectors and Sinners: You, Cornerstone and the Mission of ACU
Richard Beck is an experimental theologian/psychologist who I came across earlier today after finding his article on the Hufflepuff House in Harry Potter. I then went a little deeper and explored his website… in the above video (which I am very grateful for) at a Cornerstone lecture in 2010 he leads his students to think about whether it is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin, where the notion of purity comes from and how Jesus addressed that and how we should address it. How we can know the ‘Other’, people different to us, and how we can live and be Christian mission that does not oppress or condemn, but rather positively brings people closer to God and to one another, to engaging in discovering truth. With art, scripture and science.
This has reminded me of Kester Brewin’s Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbours in a World of Fractures. A brilliant part of having a Kindle is that I can quickly log into my AmazonKindle page and see the highlights from when I read it…
The person who acted with grace and mercy towards ‘the other’ was the one who was the true neighbour. This is another strange answer from Jesus. He had been asked who his neighbour was; the reply he gave was to explain how to be a good neighbour, the implication being that there is no one who is not our neighbour, no one to whom we should not show mercy. The ‘other’ in the world around me is everyone around me.
…Jesus’ incarnation and ministry thus present us with the final critique of strategic religion; on the cross, where we see God almost deliberately ‘lose’ – as if duped into being strung up by a scheming, fearful group of clerics – we see the end of power games. God will not play. I sincerely believe that if the Church allows itself to be tied up in strategies, into ‘winning’ people for Christ, it will end inexorably moving towards power-politics, towards support for wars, and away from genuine concern for the ‘other’.
We are told by the Gospels that Jesus loved tax-collectors and sinners. Of course we must remember that we are all people who fail sometimes, who ‘sin’, and it would be rather arrogant to suggest that one kind of people did not, was somehow better and more righteous. So when Jesus sat with sinners and ate with them, he was eating and sharing his life with those beings willing to listen to Christ, to be forgiven, to be open, to share communion and to love one another and themselves. Can the Church remember Jesus’ call for mercy (not sacrifice) and communicate, mission with people in a more intimate way? Can we know the ‘Other’ and love the Other, or will religious power-politics dominate our society? I hope not. I know we can be better than that.