1 Samuel 9:1-4,17-19,10:1
When I began working with offenders, many years ago, a social worker I knew expressed her incredulity that I would work with ‘those awful people’, as she described them. ‘I have only nice clients,’ she said. The issue of who transgresses laws and societal mores troubles every generation. It seems that tax collectors were flavour of the month for disgust in Christ’s time. We, the holier than thou, seem happiest when we can project our disapproval upon those who are less virtuous than we are.
But Christ wasn’t like that. God’s love is for everyone, even for those who appear the most un-loveable. God loves those we love to hate and Christ came to call sinners, not just the virtuous. If he can bring about a change of heart in them, the whole of the body of Christ benefits. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall at Christ’s lunch with Levi and the tax collectors. I imagine some serious conversations going on, but within a context of love and respect.
Some may recall, during the First Gulf War, US General Norman Shwarzkoph (better known as Stormin’ Norman), likening coalition forces to ‘guys in white hats’ whilst their enemy were ‘the guys in black hats’. For Christ there are neither black nor white hats.
Plato, who died in 348 BC wrote, ‘If you treat someone the way they are, they will always remain as they are. If you treat them as they may become, they will become as they may become”. Even if we don’t rub shoulders with offenders regularly, the principle of looking for the best in ‘difficult’ people is Christ-given and can warm even the coldest of hearts
Brian Norman has been associated with the Passionists in various ways since he was three weeks old when he squared off with Fr Placid Millay CP over the baptismal font at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.