It is often said that you can tell what a person is like by the company he keeps. Look at his friends, and from them you can deduce what his character is like. There is some truth in it. Birds of a feather, as we often say in the proverb, flock together. But you know it's not the whole truth by any means for the simple reason that you have to consider the motives of people for the company they keep. Why do they choose particular people to fraternize with? It is possible to seek people's company not because you like what they are and acquiesce in what they are, but because you hope to have some influence in changing them?
Teachers, for example, spend their lives in the company of children not because they prefer the company of children to the company of adults, but because they regard it a great privilege to have some share in developing the potential of children to become adults. Again, social workers spend their time with problem families not because they prefer families with problems to families without problems, but because they hope to be able to help to solve the problems in the families they serve. Now that's elementary, isn't it? But it was a failure to discern, to recognize, this and to inquire into the motive of Jesus in fraternizing with publicans and sinners that led the Pharisees to make a false judgement about him.
Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners, so they assumed he preferred their company to the company of the righteous. In fact they assumed that he approved of their sinful conduct. It doesn't seem to have occurred to these Pharisees that Jesus might have kept bad company for a good reason. But he did, you know. So should we. The problem we're going to face is that most of us don't have any bad ...
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