Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 (NIV)
One of the things that is largely forgotten today is just how socially radical the followers of Jesus were in the socio-economic Roman world of the first century. The lines of culture and society, of “haves” and “have nots” in their day and age were clearly drawn. Ethnicities, genders, and nationalities were deeply divided. As deeply divided as we see our own current culture, I have a hard time believing that it wasn’t exponentially worse in the first century Roman world.
Then Jesus came. And His followers saw in Jesus a different example:
Jesus spoke with women, and honored them as they supported His work. He spoke with a Samaritan woman with whom it was socially taboo to speak. He spoke with a woman condemned by her adultery, he touched her, covered her nakedness and forgave her.
Jesus was willing to go to the house of a Roman, whom it was socially and politically unacceptable by many in His culture to do.
Jesus accepted dinner invitations from those who were of the right wing, conservative political party that wanted Him dead.
Jesus dined with left wing, liberal Roman sympathizers considered traitors among His people. These hated turncoats and Bernie Madoff type con-men had worked the Roman system to get personally rich by extorting money from their good neighbors.
Jesus touched and healed people who were poor, who were social outcasts, and those whom His society deemed wholly unacceptable.
Among Jesus’ circle of 12 disciples were educated and uneducated, a right wing extremist and a left wing extremist, rich and poor, blue collar and white collar.
After Jesus ascension, His followers continued His example. When Jesus’ followers gathered together they welcomed everyone to the table. Slaves were welcome at the table with their own slave owners (imagine how uncomfortable that must have been). Men and women were both welcomed. People of all colors and nations were welcomed at the same table whether a respected Greek academic or a brutal Scythian barbarian. In Christ everyone who followed Jesus was welcome at the table. This simple, radical, counter cultural act would slowly rock the Roman Empire.
Today I’m asking myself, “How far has the pendulum sung back among those of us who claim to be Jesus’ followers today? Who would I honestly not want to welcome at the table with me? Who would make me really uncomfortable if they walked into my Sunday’s worship service and sat down?”
Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I’ve just identified the very place I need spiritual heart surgery. STAT.