Dining in Jesus’ day was a sign of intimate fellowship, and here, he’s dining with the people who no one would have expected a rabbi like him to dine with. In Luke 7, the other story we mentioned, he’s dining with people who we, who have such a bad taste in our mouths about Pharisees, would never expect a radical like him to dine with. But Jesus came for all kinds of people. He welcomed people of diversity—the apparently self-righteous and the obviously sinful, the Jew and the Gentile, men and women, adults and little children. In every case, Jesus spent time with the elite of the day and the outcast of the day. Blind people, paralyzed people, lepers, impoverished people—all thought to be under the wrath of God. Tax collectors, Gentiles, women, and little children—all thought to be unimportant and insignificant in the eyes of God. And Jesus spent time with them all.
Diversity is a buzzword in our culture. Talking about diversity in the public square will win you points. And sadly, the church has lagged behind in many ways. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Tragically, this sort of division is still apparent in our churches and at our dinner tables.
King was talking specifically about racial or ethnic division, and he was right—this sort of division is appalling. And there are other sorts of division. We divide along lines of race, yes, and also along lines of socioeconomic status and income levels, cultural preferences and backgrounds, political persuasion, and even which sports team to root for! James Taranto in June of 2017 wrote in the opening sentence of a Wall Street Journal article, “If there’s one thing Americans of all political stripes can agree on, it’s that the country is divided—bitterly, dangerously, perhaps irreconcilably riven.”4 Is he wrong?
In the midst of this division, Christians, of all people, ought to pursue radical hospitality and love of neighbor that just doesn’t make sense if Jesus is still in the grave. Jesus’ day was no less divided than ours in terms of class, race, gender, and social status, yet he obliterated those boundaries by dining in diversity. Are you willing to do the same? To be a difference maker, I believe we must. I believe our dinner tables, Saturday afternoon cups of coffee, birthday parties, contact lists, and our churches all must massively increase in diversity for us to make the difference that Jesus is calling us to make.
Not only that, but we must develop relationships with people whose lifestyles are much different than ours. We’re not only seeking diversity racially, socially, or socioeconomically; to be a difference maker means to spend time with sinners. To dine with people who are far from God. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what we’re called to do.
Gregg Matte, Difference Makers: How to Live a Life of Impact and Purpose (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2019).
Want to fill your church with Difference Makers? It will take more than reading one article. I’d recommend you have every group in your church study this excellent book.
We have just completed a Bible study to guide your group into meditating on and applying these truths. The Difference Makers is our Bible Study based on Greg Matte’s book Difference Makers. It consists of 8 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.