“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw (Jesus) eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ ” (Mark 2:16, NIV).
It bothers me when, in a social setting, I see someone sitting alone. I’ve witnessed this on numerous occasions, even at church dinners hosted by well-meaning Christians. Now, I understand that, on occasion, this is simply the result of chance, a musical chairs type of thing. Still, more often than not, it’s a reflection of either our inability or our unwillingness to be hospitable to one another.
Let’s assume that the letting-someone-sit-alone scenario occurs only because we lack the necessary ability to co-mingle. I’ve discovered that a simple “hello”, a personal introduction, and some general interest in listening to what the person has to say go a long way toward a fluid conversation. What we don’t want to do, in my opinion, is to lead with some sort of creepy Christian Jesus talk with the obvious agenda of winning that person for the Kingdom of Christ. We’re simply trying to do the right thing here as civil human beings. Our efforts at inclusiveness will likely result in meeting someone new, who may, in fact, be more like ourselves than we initially thought.
If, on the other hand, we see ourselves at an elevated status and the lone-sitter as someone of lesser value, we have a lot to consider. The elementary school, concern of cooties approach, is not cool when put into practice in adulthood. It’s important that we put our own motivations, and possible discomfort, aside and make the person sitting alone feel welcome and part of the group.
I guess I’m on my soapbox here, because I’ve been the lone-sitter in a crowded room. And it’s awful! And if you’re honest, I imagine that you’ve been in this position as well, at least once or twice in your lifetime. Tomorrow, we’ll look at how Jesus handled situations such as these. We can learn a lot from him!