Friday, October 4, 2019

Our Trouble With Rejecting Both The Sin And The Sinner

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”” – Mark 2:14-17

I am certain that you are familiar with this story.  The day that Matthew met Jesus. The response of the religiously correct – the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus association with tax collectors and other sinners. And Jesus response them. “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” This world is getting darker – sin is becoming more blatant. People no longer hide their sin but wear it proudly.  As the Church, our charge is to be a light in a dark world.  Just like Jesus. To see sinners as needing Jesus, not condoning the sin, but recognizing that Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Salvation and  the realization that I needed to repent of my sin was spiritual not natural.  I didn’t think my way into eternal life.  The preacher who preached the sermon did not save me. I was saved by grace through faith – not the preacher’s words.  Did God use Dr. Dunn in my salvation – yes.  Just as He used my parents and others to plant seeds and water.  But – when the time was right – I came under conviction by the Spirit of God and received salvation by faith in the Son of God. Jesus was not condoning Matthew’s sin and the sins of those who came to eat with them.  He acknowledged their sins and called them to repentance.  It is difficult for us to not reject the sinner – not to condemn them for their sin – not to consider them unsavable – not to act as if we were God – not act as though we are somehow better and more deserving of salvation than they are.

Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14

If you have a problem with seeing sinners as in need of a savior and can’t get past the sin, you don’t understand your calling as an ambassador of Christ.  When people wore the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wrist bands some years ago, it was often an attempt to remind them to curb their own behavior – to manage their sin.  Listen.  The closer Jesus got to the Cross, the fewer people were willing to follow Him. Many could follow in the power of their flesh – they agreed with the good things He spoke about – the healings – which were allegories – reflections of the spiritual healing that could be found in Jesus. But as He drew closer to the Cross – the natural agreement was not enough – their natural minds could not accommodate the spiritual truth – what it meant to follow Jesus.

Then He [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” – Luke 9:23

So, as Christians, are we supposed to call evil – good? No! We are supposed to bring the Good News to a world that is in tail spin.  We are to love the sinner and hate the sin. That is not a verse in the Bible, by the way. But, it is a principle in the Bible, clearly. Actually that phrase was written in a letter from Saint Augustine to some nuns in A.D. 423. 

We should follow his advice, but more, Jesus admonition to be faithful to our primary mission.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-17

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