As I have read the letters-to-the-editor smugly and intolerantly ridiculing Representative Garth Everett for helping his convicted and imprisoned friend, Congressman Feese, I was reminded of Luke 18:9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In Jesus' time, tax collectors or so-called "Publicans" defrauded ordinary people of their "tax dollars" and as agents of the occupying Roman Empire were treated like outcasts and traitors.
Yet Jesus regularly went to dinner parties with them and Luke records this parable about them and those who condemned them:
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector."
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
And it's not as though the Good Lord didn't spell it out: "Lord, when were you in prison and we did not visit you?' "Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me."
May the "Our Father" we pray so often be a blessing and not a curse to all who mouth these potentially self-damning words: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."
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