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Daily Devotional for November 24


November 24                                                 Matthew 18:10-20

              "...and if your neighbor refuses to listen
       even to the church, let that neighbor be to you as...
                                a tax collector."

To the Jews of Jesus' day, tax collectors were social and spiritual
outcasts, lumped together with gentiles, sinners, murderers, and
thieves. Pharisees would not allow even the skirt of their robe
to touch one of them. And, of course, not all the tax collectors
were innocent victims. Most of them were untrustworthy and
exploitative participants in an unjust economic system which gave
them wealth at the expense of their fellow citizens.

Yet Jesus cared deeply for these clever thieves. He called
Matthew to become one of his closest disciples. (Matthew 10:3)
He invited himself to the home of Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:5) The
Pharisees in fact complained that Jesus ate with tax collectors
(Matthew 9: 11), and there were those who derided Jesus as be-
ing a friend of tax collectors. (Matthew 11: 19)

In the light of Jesus' deliberate outreach to tax collectors, today's
passage dealing with sinners in the church cannot therefore
mean, "Three strikes and you're out!" It is, rather, as if Jesus
were saying: "When someone seems to you to be the worst
kind of sinner - as traitorous and dishonest as a tax collector
- then treat that individual exactly as I treated the tax collec-
tor, as the very person whom I am most eager to befriend. Leave
the others, if necessary, and find a way to bring him or her
home. For 'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance.' " (Luke 5:32)

It is significant that only Matthew records these words of Jesus
comparing sinners in the church to tax collectors. As a redeemed
tax collector, he would have understood immediately that Jesus
was teaching us to see the sinner as one of us: A lost sheep in
need of God's grace, one for whom Jesus goes out searching
to find and bring it home.

From The Road to Emmaus - An inclusive devotional Edited by Joseph W. Houle

Emmaus House of Prayer - Washington D.C.

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