Don’t focus too much on whether others think you are nice or religious or respectable. Follow Jesus. And, like Jesus, welcome anyone who comes to him, including those who you might naturally exclude or think are disreputable. Make sure you care less about how you look to others and more about how you can please your Father in Heaven.
Many people think of Christians as nice, clean-cut people. Those who are respectable, who are pillars of the community. There is a perception that Christians sometimes feel that they are superior to other people, looking down on those who have made different lifestyle choices. And – let’s be honest – sometimes that accusation has truth to it.
It wasn’t that different for Jewish people in Jesus’ day. It was clear to most people who the good guys were and which people should be avoided. The religious leaders were the good guys. They took the law seriously and they were widely respected; you could even see their devotion by what they wore and how they arranged their hair. On the other hand, there were people that were commonly looked down upon, especially tax collectors and prostitutes. Not only were these less than savoury professions, they associated with the Romans.
Into that context, Jesus had a conflict with the religious leaders in Matthew 21. They saw him as causing problems in their area, the temple. They demanded to know whose authority he was acting under. After an initial discussion, Jesus went on to use three stories to unpack who he was. The first one was the parable of the two sons:
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”