How would you react if you saw your pastor at a local restaurant eating and laughing with known drug dealers or gang members? He wasn’t preaching to them, wasn’t having a healing service, just having a meal with them. Would this bother you?
Jesus was criticized for being friends of sinners. He ate with them at their house. He knew them by name. He even called Matthew, a sinner to be his disciple. (One minute Matthew is deceitfully collecting taxes, the next minute he is a disciple and healing people. No six months to prove he has changed, no discipleship classes just bam you are a disciple. Go heal somebody.)
Unfortunately today’s church behave more like the Pharisees in this story than Jesus. We shun sinners. We boycott them. We criticize them for behaving like….well sinners.
But when Jesus encountered a sinner, he didn’t see the behavior, He saw who they were created to be, He saw the Glory of God that was placed within them while in their mother’s womb. He saw their hurt, their pain, their longing to be wanted, loved, accepted, friended.
Our commission as Christians is not to avoid associating with sinners. On the contrary, our job is to sit with them, listen to their hearts and demonstrate the love of God. Our job is to go where they are and make them feel love, accepted, friended because they are. Our job is to bring the healing power of Jesus into their hearts.
Remember church, it’s God’s goodness not His judgement or His wrath, it’s His kindness not picket lines or boycotts that leads sinners to repentance. So boys and girls let’s get out of our comfortable church buildings, our Christian gatherings and go eat with sinners. Let’s call out the gold hidden in their hearts. Let us love the hell out of them. That is what Jesus did! That is what we are called to do.
“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him, leaving everything behind. Then Levi gave a great banquet in his house for Jesus, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. But the Pharisees and their experts in the law complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.””
Luke 5:27-32 NET