Matthew 9:10-11 (the message)
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”
My Pastor referenced this scripture on Sunday as he passionately made the case for loving people. With a smile he shared how once someone came up to him after service and told him it was “a hell of a sermon.” We kind of chuckled and then I wanted to stand up and cheer when he said this:
Some of you are more upset that I said hell than you are that your neighbors are going there.
I’m so thankful for my church! My Pastor’s heart. A place that allows and encourages people to belong even before they believe.
Are we showing the unconditional love of Christ if we require a litmus test before embracing others?
Are we really Pharisees at heart? So proud of our rigid self-righteousness that we can’t love anyone not like us?
I keep thinking about an interaction I witnessed recently.
Not like me.
Words that echo in my mind. One minute talking about God and the next declaring she would have nothing to do with certain people because they aren’t like her.
They don’t dress like me!
They don’t talk like me!
They don’t act like me!
How are people going to believe Jesus loves them if we don’t?
Well, we don’t love them.
We judge them.
I think for many years I was more defined by my outspoken adherence to right and wrong, my principles, than my love.
I know right from wrong. I recognize sin and its effects. But God has told us to love others and leave the judging to Him. I’m not sure sometimes that we know how to do that.
Pharisee Christians enjoy feeling superior and detached all the while polluting the atmosphere with pride.
How many times did I discuss things and people under the context of not being a “stumbling block?” Things I wouldn’t do for the risk of confusing another person all the while ignoring things that absolutely confuse others.
If I wouldn’t have a glass of wine but I’ll gossip about the one who does, that is not love.
If I wouldn’t wear that skirt but I’ll diminish the character of the woman who does, that is not love.
If I wouldn’t set foot in the church down the road but I never bother to invite anyone to my own, that is not love.
If I wouldn’t talk the way they do so I don’t talk to them at all, that is not love.
If I wouldn’t relate to their lifestyle so I don’t bother to relate at all, that is not love.
We can dress it up any way we want, but Jesus is not like that.
What if Jesus had refused to go to Matthew’s house or got up and left when the “riffraff” showed up?
What if Jesus treated people the way Christians often do?
Jesus decided from the beginning of time that He would love us no matter what. He would reach far and wide, high and low, to recover us.
Why do we get in His way? Why do we forget we are the recovered?
This is what He had to say to the Pharisees:
Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.
These days I’m asking God to make me light. Not the kind that interrogators use to intimidate others into the truth, but the kind that shines and glows and attracts.
See, I’ve hurt just enough…been broken just enough…accumulated just enough regret…to understand one thing above all else. Maybe I can’t always relate to the experiences and choices of others, but I can relate to their need to be loved.
And goodness how He loves us.
All of us.