Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. (Matt. 22:10, CEB)
In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost penned a line which often gets used out of context: “fences make good neighbors.” This sentiment is held up as an ideal or reason to keep people separate. “You have yours and I have mine, never the twain shall meet,” we think.
We are happy with our fences. We are happy to keep to ourselves. We are happy to hole up in our hovel. We are happy to keep others out. We are happy to hoard and control the things we have. They are ours. Fences make good neighbors because they keep us and our stuff safe from the prying hands of others.
So why in the heck would Jesus tell this story where the Kingdom of God is compared to a wedding feast where both the evil and good fill up the party? Why are the riff-raff invited? Why are the unseemly allowed to RSVP? Why are the less than desirable included in all the festivities?
Come on, Jesus, have some decency after all. I mean, this is God’s empire full of hope and love we are talking about here. Can it really be “good news” if those whom we deem “unworthy” are included in all the fun? We better put up a fence and keep them out, right?
In the wake of the #metoo movement sweeping social media, I have been thinking about this dividing fence.
Best I can summarize, #metoo is an attempt to bring to light the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault against women. Simple statements of #metoo, let the world know a person has been, or is still, a victim of such action. While statistics show us the prominence, seeing and reading stories hits home.
And I must admit, this is my fault. There have been times in my life where I’ve contributed to a #metoo story. I’ve sexually harassed women, both intentionally and unintentionally. I’ve contributed in what I’ve said and done, and what I’ve left unsaid and undone.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something that’s true. But what is also true is that it is sin. I’ve sinned by degrading the humanity of another. If there is a fence built up, I would be placed on the side of those deemed “unworthy” because of my sin.
But even I am invited to the party, too.
If you continue reading Jesus’ story though, we know we can’t stay in the same place. It’s not enough to simply come to the party, we must be transformed. Confession is necessary. Repentance is necessary. Change is necessary.
We must admit when we’ve done wrong, including the ways we’ve contributed to a culture of sexual violence and patriarchal power, and ask for forgiveness. Then, we must work for transformation. We must break down the fence of ignorance so all have access to the green grass of hope and peace.
May it be so this day.