Wednesday, February 24, 2010
GOD'S SEARCHING LOVE
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:1-7 (NIV)
The Pharisees had constructed a very sophisticated religious bubble to insulate themselves from those who lived in the outside world. They had very little contact with those people and considered them to be sinners and unclean. In one hand the Pharisees were afraid that having any contact with these kinds of people would contaminate them but on the other hand they were hypocrites and just as sinful as anyone else.
But Jesus, in contrast, being the only truly righteous person lived, ministered and befriended those who were part of the sinful outside world. He hung out with them, he ate with them, he laughed and cried with them. He was truly a friend to the sinners.
Jesus' actions and attitudes toward sinners was very disturbing to the Pharisees! So they began to mutter amongst themselves about it. The HCSB translations says they began to complain about it. Isn't that amazing? Here is a person doing good and then you have a group of people "complaining" about it. Why would they complain? The Bible doesn't say why but maybe it was because they felt that Jesus' actions challenged their acceptable way of doing religion. They had set up a whole system of being isolated from the outside world, giving the appearance that they had it all together with the intent of attracting others to their way of doing things. But the problem was that they were hypocrites and they didn't have it all together. Their lifestyle was a lie and therefore ineffective. But here comes Jesus and he does have it all together. He's perfect. There is no hypocrisy in Christ at all and he is not isolating himself from the sinners of the world. In fact he is enjoying their company far more than he enjoyed the company of the Pharisees. So from the Pharisees perspective everything they had built Jesus was now condemning and tearing down by his new approach.
Maybe they were complaining because they personally were not comfortable with people who lived and worked in the outside sinful world. Maybe they didn't know how to relate to them. Maybe their dress, smell, speech and lifestyle were so different from what the Pharisees had become accustom to that they felt totally out of place around them.
Or maybe, they were jealous of the success and attention that Jesus was getting from the outside world! The people were no longer, if they ever did, looking to the Pharisees for spiritual direction now that they had a man who walked and lived amongst them showing them the way. The message of grace that Christ brought verses the message of works that the Pharisees taught was so different that the teaching of Christ was like a breath of fresh air and attracted the masses like bee's to honey. And I am quite sure that the Pharisees became very jealous of his apparent success.
No one really knows the reasons for their complaining. We just know that they did and I think, for those of us who are intentionally trying to pursue the mission of Christ, we can learn a very important lesson. Not every person who claims to have a relationship with God will be excited or supportive of our mission endeavors. In many respects the church of North America has become filled with our own brand of Pharisees. Maybe not in theology but at least in attitude. We have built our own "spiritual bubbles" and spend our time meeting in building trying to outshine each other. We think that we have built a very attractive religious model that those on the outside looking in will want to have. But the reality is that no one is really looking and what they do see may not be very attractive at all. And when follower of Christ actually begins to go out where the people are who need salvation it just might upset others who are comfortable in their nice pretty church buildings.
The thought of pastors or church members going into bars, parties of "those" sinners or any function that the church classifies as worldly in order to build relationships with the unchurched will be appalling to many church goers. Yes, the Bible does say that Christians are not to "of the world" but it also does say that Christians are to be "in the world" and the light of the world. Many times the ones you would expect to receive the most encouragement from, as you pursue the mission of Christ, are the ones who cause you the most grief.
But don't lose heart! Remember that you are following Christ's example and obeying his commands in this search for his lost sheep. While the work may be hard, discouraging and even difficult it will also ultimately be worthwhile and fulfilling. SO PRESS ON MI AMIGO!
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