Friday, January 17, 2014

Eating With The Sinners

9) As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting  at the tax office.  And He said to him, "Follow Me."  So he arose and followed Him.
10) Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
12) When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13) But go and learn what this means:  'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."  
~Matthew 9:9-13

For about a month now I have been hearing this phrase repeated over and over in my head, Eating with the sinners.  And as I read these words I feel the stirrings in my heart again.  A nagging in the back of my mind or in the depths of my soul that there is something wrong with the way I love.

You see, it isn't that I don't love people.  It is that I show that love in the wrong way.  I give unsolicited advice and worry constantly over the choices my dear ones make.  I warn and I preach and tell them that God has something better for them.  I voice my opinions on lifestyle choices of others loudly and pronounce them "lost."  Without realizing it, I have become what I thought I hated.

Jesus called Matthew in the middle of tax collecting.  Then he went to Matthew's house and hung out with his wrong-side-of-the-track friends.  What do you suppose they talked about?  I can tell you what they didn't talk about.  The Law.  If Jesus had been giving them a lecture on their lifestyle, the Pharisees would have been in the corner saying, "You tell 'em, Jesus!"

Instead they wanted to know why Jesus was disgracing Himself by hanging out with these sinners.  Ouch.  That hurt.  Know why?  Because that is what I am.  A sinner.  I have been forgetting that lately.  I am a sinner.  I am forgiven.  I have been redeemed and set free but I am still a sinner.  

The thing I notice about Jesus in these verses is that He accepted those people, those sinners, just as they were.  He may have talked about the love of God and His grace or He may have just simply shared a meal and some laughs.  But He didn't condemn, He didn't talk down to them.  He loved them.

When I say I am a Christian and called to love others...what does that mean?  What does that look like?  It looks like me having a relationship with others and leaving the judgment up to God.  It means that I don't try to lay the yoke of the Law on someone who doesn't know Jesus.  When I do that, I think I am pointing someone in the right direction but what I'm really saying is, Yes, Jesus loves you, but you need to get yourself cleaned up first.

I don't see Jesus presenting this message to Matthew and his friends.  I see Jesus spending some time just loving on some people that really, really need Him.  Have I loved on someone that needs Him lately?  

I need to change the way I love.  Maybe you do too.  I believe it is something we, as Christians, struggle with.  We don't want to come off as condoning an action so we err to the side of caution and condemn instead.  Friends, that is not what Jesus called us to do.  Jesus says the world will know we are Christians by our love, not our messages on hell fire and damnation.  

I need to get serious about loving people to Christ.  I'm not sure what that is going to mean but I feel sure it isn't going to be easy.  It won't be something I can make up my mind to do.  It will be a change brought on slowly by the Holy Spirit and God giving me plenty of opportunities to practice.  My goal should be to shine a Light, not quench a spark.  

46) "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47) And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do mare than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?"  ~Matthew 5:46-47