“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mk 2:16
Last year, I spoke with a friend about race and our hometown, Painesville, Ohio. He talked about one section of our town where four churches were so close to each other they practically shared the same parking lots. Two of the churches were all white. Two of the churches were all black. My friend asked the question, “Do you think those churches ever socialize? Ever get together for a meal?” The answer was, no.
What made the situation so confusing was everything else about Painesville was racially integrated and had been for a long time. Not only were the schools, activities and businesses all integrated, but there was a strong sense of racial harmony in our small town. Why was it in places of worship they could not bring themselves to eat with their neighbors? These communities gather each Sunday to listen to scripture about embracing both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, saint and sinner and to love their neighbor as themselves. So, why do we have such a problem worshipping across racial lines?
Today’s reading provided some guidance for helping me think about faith and race. Jesus and his disciples did not upset the natural order of spiritual life in the Temple, but how the spiritual life was lived. They ate with sinners in their homes. They did not fast, when the religious people were fasting. The Temple and a quiet mountain top were reserved for worship and prayer. But, living the faith happened in the culture, away from the sacred places.
Today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., think of ways you can love those who are different from you. Do it your daily living. Do not keep your expressions of love confined to a Sunday morning, nor bound to a quiet prayer of hope. Make your compassion visible. Then when others see it and question why, it might lead to a wonderful conversation about love.
Click to read: Mark 2: 13-22