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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, February 27

And as Jesus sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
—Matthew 9: 10-11

When I was younger, I was very concerned with rules. I suppose it could have been because I was an only child, burdened with the great expectations of my parents and what seemed like the whole community. Rules fashioned my life and informed me of what was right and what was wrong. Period.

A part of that was no doubt fueled by my membership in a church that sometimes confused rules with morality. I grew up in a tradition that told me what not to do and sometimes what I ought to do; but rarely, if ever, did my community give me the tools to discern what was best to do.

As I got older, that approach made less and less sense to me. Now, as an adult, I am part of a faith tradition that still has plenty of rules, but more importantly, my faith now asks me to seek the deeper meaning, looking beyond mere rules toward moral living.

In our lesson for today the Pharisees are fixated upon the rules. They cannot fathom a teacher like Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus understood his identity and being in God, and therefore, he understood his call to all people. Rules that isolated him from restoring right relationship between God and humanity yielded to the greater commandment to love.     

Is religion about rules for you? Is religion about getting things right and preventing wrong? Or is religion about entering discernment, groping your way along the pathway of life hoping to find grace and mercy in the most unlikely of places?

Could it be that God is asking you to eat with those whom others have forgotten, so that they too might know the love, grace, and mercy of a God that none of us can fathom? Could it be that God is asking you to see through the rules to something deeper, more meaningful, and in the end, more demanding?

God of all people, help me to keep the Pharisees’ question foremost in my mind: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”