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The Kingdom is a Really Messy Party

• Greg Boyd

Messiness often bothers people. Life is messy, and many things are ambiguous or undefined. There are no clear categories into which certain events can be placed. It can be too chaotic, and unsettling for some to endure. Because of this dislike of messiness, it is pretty understandable how we would like to make things clean and unambiguous as we can…including our relationship with God and His Kingdom. We learn from Jesus’ ministry, however, that God’s Kingdom is not as clean-and-nice as we might like for it to be.

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In Luke 5:27-32, we have an account of Jesus attending a huge party in his honor that is hosted by Levi (also known as Matthew) who happens to be a tax collector. A tax collector was a Jewish businessman who made a living collecting taxes from the Jewish people on behalf of the Roman government. They were known to be corrupt, regularly exploiting their own people to line their own pockets with money. At any rate, there were a lot of social “sinners” at this party like other tax collectors, prostitutes, and others who were invited to this party. So, here we have the holy Son of God in the midst of an apparent “messy” little party. Because of Jesus’ openness, love, and willingness to befriend, he was able to not only attend the party, but also enjoy himself while positively affecting those present. The Pharisaic religious leadership, however, saw Jesus as compromising with sin by hanging out with those they believed to be the main problems with Israel’s then-current state. They judged Jesus because of his blatant association with people of questionable character and profession. But Jesus made clear his intentions: the Healer goes where the sick people are, wherever they may be, in order to heal them. God is reaching out to the lost, whether religious people like it or not. And He parties while He does so.

We learn that Jesus was a party person. He was a person who genuinely enjoyed seeing people have a good time. Life in the Holy Spirit is righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17) and that’s what Jesus brought to earth for everyone to share. Having fun doesn’t equate to doing spiritually unhealthy things like getting drunk or indulging in sensual or sexual free-for-all. God is the ultimate source of all joy and desires that we enjoy our lives. God never intended for our lives to be “all work” and “no play”. Jesus himself was able to party, even as he confronted many of the oppressive realities of his day. As disciples, we can do no more or less than our Lord. To be sure, God does give us responsibilities and he empowers us to be responsible. However, the righting of all the wrongs of the world is God’s responsibility, not ours. We are not to shoulder that responsibility or take on any guilt from trying to assume that responsibility. We are to bless others as God blesses us with the ability…and give the rest to God’s mighty hands.

We also learn that the religious leaders opposing Jesus were NOT party people. Unfortunately, they were too caught up in their judgments of Jesus’ methods of serving God to notice the true work God was doing. Instead of being a part of what Jesus was doing, they were paralyzed by all of the questions that their self-oriented religious convictions brought to their minds; the thinking that says “we-can-and-we-must-fix-the-world”, where people get life from being the religious orchestrators of how people should come to God. They got life meaning from judging others! Disciples of Jesus must avoid this mental trap at all costs, if we want to make a true difference in the world as God’s people.

There are three things that we can take away from this account for our lives today:

  1. Life is found in a loving relationship with God, not in religious judgment of others.
  2. Christians are as much sinners as anyone else, so we aren’t in a position to fix anyone like we are better than others.
  3. The only thing that can help people is God’s unconditional love coming through us that brings with it Kingdom joy.
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Topics: Identity in Christ, Kingdom of God, Transformation

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 5:27-32

    After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

    Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"

    Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

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