Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 5:27-32 (Dining with Tax Collectors)

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.  Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Have you ever been to the emergency room?  Maybe you were the one who needed immediate medical attention.  Maybe you were there for a friend or a family member.  I remember going to the emergency room as a child.  My cousins and I were running inside the house and I launched head-first into a door catch.  My braver older cousin held a towel on my head to slow the bleeding until my uncle and my mom picked me up and rushed me to the emergency room.  There, the doctors quickly gave me anesthetics and began to stitch up the wound.  I had a dozen or so blue stitches in my head, but I would live.

Imagine what it would have been like if I got to the emergency room, but instead of getting immediate attention and healing, they scoffed at me!  What you are doing here?  We don't want you here!  You might bleed on the floor!  Can't you see how clean they are?  I can't stitch him up, I just washed my tools!  We just got new gloves in, but we haven't opened the box yet.  I'd really hate to use up the inventory for this.  Why don't you come back tomorrow?  That would be so much better for the doctor.

Doesn't that sound ridiculous?  So, why is it okay for Christians to say these kinds of things?  You want to pray? Why don't you wait until Sunday, when the Pastor can pray with you?  Wait. You smoke?  You can't come in our church.  You need to quit first, then you can come to your church.  You have an addiction?  You should get help for that.  We can't have you in our church.   What?!?  Please tell me you see something wrong with this.  Look at Jesus' words.

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

He said this in response to Pharisees wondering why he was eating and associating with tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus was ministering to them.  While fellowship is important, it should not come at the expense of outreach to those in need.  If we are not meeting the needs of those that Jesus sends our way, are we being Jesus to them? No.  If we are judging people and condemning them before they even walk through the door, we have already shut the doors to their hearts before the Spirit has even had a chance to knock.

The Church has hurt so many people.  I count myself in that number.  Even so, I love the Church!  Jesus has called the church to a higher purpose.  It occasionally loses its way and must periodically be reminded of its mission.  Let us focus today on what our mission is.

Jesus came for those who are lost in their sin.  He is like the shepherd in search of the lost sheep.  He would leave the rest of the flock in their safety to go out and find the one who is lost. He brings the lost back to be with him.  He holds us.  He carries us.  He provides for us.  He loves us.

We are to be the love of Christ.  All we are supposed to do is tell people that Jesus can save them.  Let the Holy Spirit do the work of convicting a person of their sin.  Let the Holy Spirit do the work of transformation.  You can pray for the lost.  You can be an example of Godly living (if you are, in fact, living your life for the Glory of God and not your self!).  These things will have a far greater than impact than pointing a hypocritical finger.

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