By Bishop Paul
“Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” [Mark 2:16-17].
These last lines from Mark, which I had quoted in last week’s entry, are important to help us understand what unconditional love and acceptance are not. At no point does Jesus refer to the people with whom He was dining as not being sinners. Acceptance and unconditional love, in my mind, do not mean that one dismisses the sin, nor that one excuses it. The key here is found in Jesus’ words to the scribes: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is not approaching “sinners” as judge, but as physician. It is critical that we see and understand this. There will be a time when He will come in judgment; that time is coming, but is yet to come.
So Jesus comes as a physician to heal, not to judge or condemn. We have often called the Church a spiritual hospital for our souls and bodies plagued with spiritual illness. How often do we go to a doctor having no idea what is wrong. We come with aches or pains, knowing that things are not right, but we don’t know how to stop it. We may even have no clue that something is wrong. It may take weeks before a doctor can diagnose the problem, or if in the hospital it may be days before a diagnosis can been made.
Similarly, many of the people with whom we relate in our world may say they are “sinners,” but have no idea what that means. Just as a doctor needs to get to know his patient through interview and testing to arrive at a proper diagnosis, so do we, in a similar way, need to get to know the people we encounter in our world. We need to suspend the temptation to fire our judgment gun. The minute we notice that someone is “such and such a person,” we cease to engage him or her, and we begin to treat him or her with a hands-off mindset. In the novel The Scarlett Letter, Hester Prynne walks around with an “A” on her lapel, identifying her as an adulteress, and it impacts the way she is treated. We have our own versions of different scarlet letters that we pin on people and treat them accordingly. We never bother to get to know them. This is not unconditional love and acceptance. So where do we go from here? Tune in next week.
The Lord’s blessing be upon you.
I welcome comments on the above; I don’t claim to be infallible here.
- What letters do we pin on people?