Many of you have probably seen the video of Jonathan and Charlotte, the British singing duo, floating around the Internet this week. The twosome recently performed on Simon Crowell's Britain's Got Talent. Jonathan is a heavyset, disheveled teenager who appears to lean heavily on his partner. Simon Crowell, with his usual disgust, appears to judge the young duo as they walk on to the stage. Whether Crowell's comments are just setting the stage or are an accurate depiction of his feelings, he shows a human tendency to pre-judge a given situation. As viewers learned from Paul Potts and Susan Boyle however, appearances can be deceiving. Jonathan blows away the crowd with the power of his voice. Soon all audience members and judges are standing in ovation. Another unlikely star may have just been born.
What is about this type of story that has such wide appeal in our world? Perhaps it is the fact that we are guilty of the oft-repeated sin of Crowell, prejudice and judgment. Almost everyone has the tendency to judge based on surface appearances and often we do not take the time to know people on a deeper level. Of course the opposite direction is true as well. A great many of us have felt judged and excluded by others due to our ethnicity, our looks, our economic status or a diagnosis. Surely this is one of the great issues of our humanity: we often exclude others while desperately trying to be accepted for who we are.
Jesus dealt with this issue in Matthew 9. After calling the sinful publican Matthew to be a disciple, He then joins Matthew at a banquet at Matthew's home. Other tax collectors and sinners gather to share the banquet along with Jesus' disciples. On the skirts of the party are the Pharisees, pious, proper and judgmental. They demand to know why Jesus' is sullying His reputation with this sort of crowd. Jesus answers their questions by stating a principle which all of them would have acknowledged to be true: it is the sick and not the healthy who need a physician. In other words, it is just these sort of people that need accepting the most. If you already feel included, I can't give you anything, but if you feel left out I can bring you into fellowship.
The Pharisees thought by judging others they could gain position. Jesus lets it be known that position is gained by accepting others into relationship. These notorious sinners that Jesus associated with knew what it was like to be excluded from fellowship and community. What Jesus offered to them and offers to us is a merciful acceptance that restores relationship. The next time we are tempted to judge people based on external appearances let us remember how painful it is to be excluded and how wonderful it is to be accepted in Him.