Matthew speaks to me about prejudice. Both John and Jesus were rejected because they were different – based on the company they did or did not keep. Jesus was labelled a glutton and a drunkard because he ate with people rejected by the culture of the time. John was rejected because he did not eat or drink what was expected and was thus declared a demon. No one who made these judgements in this situation listened to or tried to understand their message – but simply branded them and moved on.
We all tend to see things through a narrow keyhole, from our own certain and defined cultural perspectives and biases. We do not generally try to see humanity as one body and our differences as gifts from God, not threats, to each other. We need to begin to exercise what Richard Rohr calls the spirit of hospitality – one based on love, openness to others, a spirit of reconciliation and service, and from a viewpoint that we are all essentially equal.
So, what can we take from this piece of scripture? Do we too easily judge, dismiss and reject people? Are we so egocentric to believe that we cannot conceive of a point of view other than our own potentially narrow view, and thus feel a need to criticize others for their differing perceptions and beliefs? Are we being called by God out of our comfort zones to understand and then to celebrate the differences we see in others? These are questions we must ask ourselves. How do we respond?