Have you ever seen someone who looks like they drank pickle juice? They might look like their lips are puckered, eyes squinted, face contorted and they could seem like they are not very social or much aware of the people around them. Or have you seen someone who is pickled from drinking too much or hazy from smoking lots of weed? Being pickled or drinking pickle juice, are metaphors used to describe people in diverse conditions, affected by various things taken into the soul and stomach.
To this end, I had to chuckle the other day when I was having a conversation with a friend on my podcast. She described the people in the church she first attended, several decades earlier. Half of the congregation was pickled (hungover from too much partying). The other half looked like they drank pickle juice because their eyes were squinty with judgment, eyebrows heavy with criticism and behaviors distant with disdain for the pickled half of the congregation that shouldn’t be coming to church in such “deplorable conditions.”
The observations my friend made caused me to laugh because I’ve seen this kind of church scenario play out at various times in my life since I’m a pastor’s kid. For example, when I was growing up, I’ll never forget asking my dad about the usher who was wearing a dress and sporting a heavy beard. I hadn’t seen that combination before and I was trying to figure out how the beard and dress worked together. At the same time, I saw that this person’s ushering section had lots fewer people than the other ushering sections in church. Maybe this was a version of the pickled versus pickle juice drinking paradigms.
Is there any bridge or way to connect these extremes? Is there some connection or cohesion for the pickled and pickle juice drinking people? Maybe these verses can help us see some connection and the bridge from Jesus’ perspective:
Mark 2:15-17, “And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?’ And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
From my point of view, Jesus came to reconcile humanity to our heavenly Father from the premise of genuine love and not transactional love (doing good things, being a good person qualifies you to receive God’s love). Jesus hung out with “pickled people” (sinners) and tried to connect with and reconcile people who drank pickle juice (religious folk like Pharisees and Sadducees). It seems to me that Jesus loves us, regardless of our condition and I believe this to be true for the simple reason that Jesus is genuine love. I also believe that Jesus loves us because of how He lived on the earth: who He talked with and how He talked to them. The most convincing proof that Jesus loves us, is His death on the cross – giving His life as the fullest demonstration of genuine love.
So if you’re a person who is pickled (struggling with weakness, frailty and being human), or if you’re a person who drinks pickle juice (maybe more pious, upstanding and less marred by sin, flaws, failures or weaknesses), let me tell you with full and complete conviction:
Jesus loves you.
Jesus wants to sit down with you and have rich, deep, vulnerable and redemptive conversations with you, from the simple and pure motivation that Jesus is genuine love!