Jesus hung around with all sorts of street artists, tax collectors, lepers, persons with mental illness, healers, sex trade workers, followers, detractors, religious elites, thieves and even an occasional rich person. Undoubtedly, Jesus hung around with a few drunks and other drug addicts as well.
I mean, after all, the wedding guests at Cana wiped-out the wine bar before the ceremony even began; causing his mother to plead with him to turn the water into wine! Elsewhere, there is question as to whether people could possibly be drunk when it was so early in the morning (of course they could). Colorful people abound in sacred scripture.
When I read the Bible, I see that Jesus had an obvious preference for the poor in pocket and the poor in spirit ~ people who were broken-up, beaten-down, boozed-up, cast-off, and discriminated against, if not simply ignored.
It is very difficult to find a story in the Bible where Jesus comes down on the side of the rich and powerful. Is there something inherently wrong with rich people? Jesus hung-out with some of them as well. Perhaps he favored the poor because it was the merciful thing to do. But perhaps Jesus also knew that people who are hurting are, often but not always, more open to the moving of the Holy Spirit than are the upright and righteous ones.
Perhaps the addicts who “reside” on our church front steps are more amenable to the moving of the Holy Spirit than those in the front pews. Perhaps the homeless who are cleansed and quenched by the water in the mobile shower unit that comes once a week to the parking lot behind the church are closer in spirit to those doused with baptismal waters than we may be aware.
It is very difficult to get close to the soul of people who think they are just fine and believe that others should strive to be just like them. It is very difficult to reach the authentic self of people who believe everything is going great because they have the worldly trappings of youth, wealth, and health.
A lot of good, church folk are genuinely loving and compassionate to people possessed by addiction and to those in remission from such possession. But it is sometimes not easy to get church folk to realize that in addition to what they have to offer ~ they might have a lot to learn and receive from addicts in the basement or back rooms.
When someone is ill, grieving, confused, despondent or addicted ~ when they are in imminent danger of losing a loved one, or of losing their own life, job, or freedom ~ they are often, though not always, more willing to go to any length to regain physical and spiritual health and balance. Desperation is a great motivator. And there is often nothing more motivated than a desperate addict or a failing church. No wonder Jesus hung-out with addicts and churchy people. And he knew just when and in what ways they would be open to the healing.
Next week: the blessing of desperation. Please get your friends and colleagues to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the upper right corner of the opening page.