It’s shocking to find Jesus in Luke 15 having to defend to the religious leaders of God’s people his actions of welcoming and eating with “sinners.” The contrast in attitudes between the Pharisees and teachers of the Law with that of Jesus is obvious. But understanding that contrast and the manifestations of it is paramount to Christ’s Church accomplishing its God-ordained mission.
Jesus attracted sinners while the Pharisees repelled them.
Lost sinners came to Jesus, not because he catered to them or compromised his message, but because he cared for them. He understood their needs and tried to help them, while the Pharisees criticized them and kept their distance.
Jesus’ implicit rebuke of that approach to sinners by the Pharisess is timeless. His every word and deed challenges that self-centered mindset. Jesus invested his time and energy in sinners. He associated freely with them. He ate with them. He became personally and intimately involved in their lives and in their struggles. And then in order to restore them to a right relationship with God, he died for them.
Jesus pursued sinners with such enthusiasm and commitment that the religious community questioned his character and his motives. And the parables in Luke 15 explain why that pursuit of sinners meant so much to him. He knew that rescue was possible. And love compelled him to go after them with everything he had.
If Jesus’ worldview and perspective is informed by this powerful theology of the lost, so should ours.
To hear the Luke 15 parables today is to be unavoidably challenged by them. It’s a direct challenge from our Savior to his Church as he says, “Suppose one of you…”
so how many of us really hang out with sinners? That’s kinda dangerous and dirty – how many of us are really ready to hang out with them? Not just for a little time but for the long haul? Are we up to it? Are we tough enough? I don’t know…
All of us are sinners, so we hope that Jesus would want to hang out with us as well. I think that Jesus is showing that sinners (as in someone who is living the life of a sinner rather than the life of a saved man) need someone to care for them, too. Jesus obviously cared for sinners and they could see it. I think that Jesus actually sought the friendship of like minded people, i.e. his apostles, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, when he was really looking for companionship. Being with sinners in a situation to have an impact on their lives is one thing that we must do. But, being with sinners where they influence us or our children’s lives, is not good. We need to be very careful about the influences that we allow in our lives as we remember the great commission.
God gives us the power to do both.
You know this is what we’re preaching tomorrow. I think you both may be surprised at the conclusions I’ve made from Luke 15.