When Tony Campolo followed Jesus and gave a birthday party for prostitutes

February 15, 2013

A birthday party for Agnes and her friends 
Have you ever thought about the implications of the words of Matthew 21:31-32 (NRSV)? There Jesus spoke to some religious leaders who were trying to trap him with what they intended as “gotcha” questions. “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. . . ‘”  And then there are passages like Mark 2:16. “When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” In today’s link, Christian sociologist and popular speaker Tony Campolo illustrates why— by sharing an incident from his own life. Following the example of Jesus, Tony  brought God’s love to those who are so often avoided, judged, and disdained by self-righteous people who pride themselves on their religiosity while failing to embody the compassion, love, and joy that Jesus came to bring. In this short video, Tony tells of a time when he was in Honolulu for a speaking engagement and was unable to adjust to the time change. With his stomach telling him it was still on eastern time, he ventured out for breakfast in the middle of the night and found a tiny “greasy spoon” restaurant still open. He was the only customer there, munching on a donut, when suddenly a group of prostitutes burst through the door. Watch the video (about 8 minutes long) and listen to him tell what happened next. (I first ran across a reference to this story on a Red Letter Christians post titled, “Why I Think Jesus Would Bake a Cake for a Same-Sex Marriage,” by Margot Starbuck, which I also recommend.)

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.


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