Monday, June 10, 2013

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

I had been asked by my employer to relocate to the company’s home office located in a small Midwest City. After a period of time we adjusted to the move. In fact, we in retrospect, thrived and grew during that 15 year experience. We quickly learned that many of those with whom I worked and became friendly were, like us, “ex pats” living away from “home.” Over time some of these business associates became our very close friends. More often than not these friendships were forged over a period of time through a series of wonderful dinner parties. These were great ways to get to know people outside of work.  Of course, this was also a time during which climbing the corporate ladder was uppermost on my mind and the dinner party became a favorite venue for me and those special guests, who could play a role in my career success, to get to know one another better.

I can remember a particular time when we struggled with a guest list. The person of honor and our close friends had accepted our invitation and while we agonized over inviting one of our dear friends, who was known to get a little obnoxious as the night progressed, we were hard pressed not to ignore him. So, he was invited as he, no doubt, would have expected. The evening arrived, the table was set, the settings were placed, the wine was poured and the menu was well in hand… and true to form, my dear friend in no time, hijacked the conversation and while several of us made attempts to wrestle it back, it was futile. Everyone knew what had happened. They, including our honored guest, were aware and sympathetic to our plight.

Later when the guests had left and we were alone, I tried to make excuses for my poor friend who, like the woman who interrupted Simon’s dinner party with Jesus, was out of placed and defied convention by interrupting the party and behaving in a disreputable way especially toward the honored guest.

Wasn’t I just like Simon in Luke 7:36-8:3  My honored guest was not there out of true friendship but was there because he might be able to help me. I chose to invite my obnoxious friend, not because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but because I didn’t want to suffer the consequences. Now, I’m not suggesting that we should have tolerated poor manners and bad behavior, since my friend clearly was out of line; I am saying that compassion for one another is not always easy. Sometimes, defying convention requires compassion rooted in deep feelings for each other and not according to our plan and agenda. Compassion requires that we don’t use people and don’t let our friends engaging in risky behavior continue to hurt themselves. Compassion means that we don’t hide behind false “nobility” and rationalize our own behavior to suit our own agenda. Jesus praised Simon’s unwanted guest who took a risk and defied convention.


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