Wright’s discussion of Jesus’ welcome to sinners (264-274) is thought-provoking, particularly as it pertains to the effect of Jesus’ welcome. Jesus wasn’t offering mercy and forgiveness where others were not, but that he was offering inclusion in the restored people of God. The offense “had everything to do with eschatology, and little to do with (what we call)‘religion’ (272).” He announced the blessing of the kingdom of God, “outside the official structures, to all the wrong people, and on his own authority (272),” and that was the connection that frustrated his colleagues. Jesus welcomed ‘sinners’ on his own terms, extending the same challenge to all who would follow him, and sidestepped the common mechanisms for inclusion in the people of God.
Particularly in the southern states, there’re plenty of expectations of what a Christian should be, which are widely held, even though they don’t really match up well with what we see in the gospels. In fact, I’d say that these expectations are largely dictated by a particular culture, rather than by scripturally-rooted convictions. People who follow Jesus, but don’t necessarily wear the right clothing, use the right language, or vote republican tend to be looked at askance and written off. It’s not an easy road to walk, and it can’t be done alone; communal commitments are imperative. Yet will these communities ever be accepted as equals, or is it our lot to be outside the center? I’m inclined to think that, at least in the present state, these communities will be marginal, and that their posture will reflect as much.