Jesus was notorious for dining with sinners. I find his practice to be an act of grace because he has reserved a seat for me (and you). If Jesus is willing to sit at the table with us, then maybe we should consider sitting at the table of fellowship with each other, and with sinners, heretics, and everyone else with whom we disagree.
This morning I read Wesley Hill’s blog (see here) about why he remains in the Episcopal Church even though he disagrees with the church’s position on human sexuality. Then, I read my morning devotion:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18).
I don’t believe this was coincidental.
Even as God is rebuking the people of Judah and Jerusalem with a litany of sins, God calls them to a holy conversation. Even as they have repeatedly forsaken and despised “the Holy One of Israel,” God continues to talk to them. This conversation is an act of grace in which God calls the people to “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
For many of us, the great temptation is to limit table fellowship to those with whom we agree. Only the orthodox and faithful are welcome at our tables. But this is not the way of Jesus. Jesus dined with sinners, in the homes of Pharisees, and even with his own disciples – Peter the denier, Judas the betrayer, and Thomas the doubter.
I have learned the value of dialogue – reasoning together – with fellow Christians who hold to different views. I have sat at the table with non-Pentecostal believers of all tribes – from Catholic to Mennonite. I have alway found those conversations to be meaningful.
Many of my Pentecostal colleagues have viewed my fellowship and dialogue with other tribes with suspicion. But I must point out that within our own tribe there are some who hold to non-traditional and heterodox beliefs. Within my own church I routinely have conversations with ministers who hold to modalist beliefs about the Trinity, or mistaken views about the nature of Jesus Christ (Arianism, Nestorianism, etc).
If I limit my fellowship to only those with whom I agree on every issue I will be sitting at the table alone.
Sitting at the table of dialogue can be a holy conversation. It does not require that we agree, but it does require that all participants come in good faith – the willingness to hear the word of the Lord. The conversations may be intense and passionate, but they should always remain civil.
I am grateful that Christ has issued an invitation to all of us to join him at the table. So we come as sinners and heretics seeking he who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” In the words of an old hymn:
“Come and dine,” the master calleth, come and dine. You may sit as Jesus’ table all the time. He who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine, to the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine!”