Reflection: Sinners, Centurions and Nice People
By Jane Lee Wolfe | Contributor
One of the best things in the Gospels is the run-down on the people Jesus hung out with. Basically, he hung out with anybody and everybody, whether they were going to turn him in to the cops, think he’s great, be offended at some of the things he said and did.
Jesus repeatedly said that his focus was on the less-than-well, not “those who need no physician.” But he was good with the already healthy folks too.
Jesus wasn’t much of a stickler for who believed what. He didn’t really care, as long as you were living a fulfilling life and were interested in having a sustainable and happy survival. He repeatedly said that his focus was on the less-than-well, not “those who need no physician.” But he was good with the already healthy folks too.
Which isn’t to say he didn’t get irritated at those who put their beliefs, prejudices and opinions ahead of caring for others. He did. Jesus got annoyed at those who were offended when he healed folks on the Sabbath. People come before the Sabbath, as holy and practical as the Sabbath is. He also didn’t spend a lot of time dancing around whether there was life after death or whether it was okay to pick up your bed and walk after you’d been healed on a “no carry” day.
The roster of people who came to him for life – for healing, for casting out demons, for sight and food and strength – was unbelievably diverse. He loved that! Who knows what some of those “sinners” believed – folks who couldn’t even contemplate being “ritually pure” because of their circumstances in life. Jesus believed you got a pass/fail for caring, not for believing. And those Roman Centurions who came for life: what on earth would their belief system (should it matter) look like? Some Roman Gods, some wise Jewish sayings, some tales from Egypt or Syria or wherever they’d been stationed beforehand? It’s all a glorious mystery! It all doesn’t matter.
Then there are the people who have no need of a physician. They are all okay, too. Nice people. People who “do right” in terms of the Law. These aren’t all bad people! They are for the most part very good people. Where the line gets drawn, however, is on the matter of caring: do they care more about their “goodness” according to the law than their “goodness” in caring for each other?
Where the line gets drawn is on the matter of caring: do they care more about their “goodness” according to the law than their “goodness” in caring for each other?
Sometimes these nice people have very hard choices. They are used to being “good” according to their traditions and standards. It is “good” to keep the Sabbath. But my neighbor is hungry and naked and afraid. Do I keep the Sabbath and deal with him afterward, or do I break the Sabbath rule and see that he has some food and a blanket and a safe place to sleep? This is not always an easy choice for those who have been brought up to “do right” and keeps the rules.
The key is caring: sinners, centurions, and nice people. We are all in the survival business. Caring is a powerful tool in survival. Our own survival, the survival of others. Jesus is in the survival business. How do we keep life alive? By helping each other, by helping ourselves, by helping God’s life to be shared with all of creation. We care by being respectful. We care by being concerned about health for all; we care by not caring whether the Jesus in front of us is a sinner, a centurion or a revered member of society. We care because we can, because we are called, because it is what we can do for God among us. We care because we are alive.