As Jesus sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
From Heather Stephens
As I read through these Bible passages, a voice from childhood said, “Repent, be saved, and become something new.” But in searching for more context, I came across a definition of sin that gave me a completely different perspective on things. Rather than a sinner being an evildoer, this definition said it was someone who had missed the mark. With that, the Gospel passages reads something like this: Jesus had dinner with tax collectors – the people who were likely not the favorite people in the village – and people who had missed the mark. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners [those who missed the mark].”
I do not consider my sin so bad that I would be called an evildoer, and I have broken bread with the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, but that other definition drops me right into the sinner category and keeps me out of the righteous one.
The problem with having a righteous mindset like the Pharisees is not that they were without sin, but that they believed that they had it all figured out. They were doing all the right things in life: praying in the proper way, fasting frequently, associating with the good sorts of people, and keeping up public appearance of piety. They were unwilling to see that maybe they had it all wrong. There was no room in their minds for anything new. Their traditions had turned them into old wineskins, ready to split.
As someone who misses the mark often, I look at the second passage with hope that maybe I am a new wineskin in that story. Not that I have been somehow miraculously transformed out of sin, but that I am willing to let go of traditions, ways of thinking, and other habits that keep me from seeking and experiencing God in new ways.
May in missing the mark in our lives, we find something even greater.