9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Dear God, I feel like I should “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” The quote is from Hosea 6, and section is titled, “Israel Unrepentant,” in the NIV. It is the word “unrepentant” that helps me link the passage to the Pharisees and the tax collectors. I think that Jesus was appreciating the fact that he was with people who were at least willing to consider repentance, if not yet fully repentant, as opposed to being with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, who were a little more proud and self-righteous. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, “You need to be on my page. You need to be showing everyone some mercy.”
Am I willing to be repentant? Am I willing to show mercy? I hope the answer to both of these is yes.
Today is Christmas Eve. As I sit here in my comfortable home, heated to 68 degrees, about to spend time with family, get gifts that I desire but don’t “need”, I think about those who are struggling through life. Yesterday, while I was driving to my office I saw an older woman walking down the street. It was cold and she was bundled up, and I think she was walking from a convenience store to an apartment complex nearby. I got to thinking about her life struggles. What is her life like now? Is she widowed? Is she sad? Does she wonder how she will pay her bills? Then, for some reason, I thought about her dead husband (remember, my imagination was going off by now, and I had him dead and one in my head) and how it would probably break his heart to see her struggling just to walk from the convenience store to her apartment in the cold. Then I thought about how I would feel if that were my wife one day, and I were looking down from heaven. It made me sad. So then I thought about stopping and at least offering her a ride, but I figured it would probably scare her to be offered a ride from a strange man, so I drove on. But I vowed in my heart that I would think about her the rest of the day and not let her memory slip past me too quickly.
Father, help me to desire mercy from myself and to offer it readily to others. Love others through me. As I see family over the next couple of days, use me as an instrument of your peace. Help me to parent my kids over the next couple of days. Help me to husband my wife. Help me to love my siblings, parents, in-laws, nieces, and nephew. Help me to not seek anything for myself, but to give of myself for others.