Friday, November 18, 2011

Let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors to you

I have often wondered what Jesus meant by what he said in today's Gospel reading 'Let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors to you.' He is speaking about how to deal with those who do wrong but refuse to listen to correction. In that context one might suspect that he means to cast them out and have nothing to do with them, just as the Jews of his day wanted to have nothing to do with gentiles and tax collectors.

But then, this passage is part of a longer series of passages about forgiveness and how much we should forgive. And the lesson from the rest of the Gospel is that we shouldn't avoid people just because we disapprove of them ... the sinners, tax-collectors, & gentiles.

Also, wasn't St Matthew himself a tax-collector?

So is Jesus being ironic here? Does he, when he says let them be as gentiles and tax-collectors really saying: these are the ones that I came to save. You must never give up on them. Just as I never gave up on you. If he is, that's what he is saying to us also - don't give up on the ones you are tempted to give up on. They are the lost sheep whose being found causes joy in heaven. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled across your article while researching church discipline. I think you present an interesting point, but if Jesus was being ironic then his disciples must have missed that point too. They seemed to follow the idea that the person is to be isolated in some regards. Now, this is only after repeated attempts to bring a continually disobedient follower back to the way, but consider the following examples:

    1 Corinthians 5 / 2 Corinthians 2
    Paul instructs the Corinthian church to turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord. Christians should not associate or socialize (even eat) with the brother in Christ who fits these characteristics.

    Romans 16:17-20
    Watch those who cause dissension and stay away from them.

    2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
    The brothers who did not work were not to be provided food rations. Further, there is a general instruction to not associate with brothers that are unruly or who reject the instructions in the word of God so that the brother will be put to shame. The brother is to be strongly warned.