A Place for Sinners
Warren Wiersbe, in his book Be Free, says this, “Nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have sinned.” Think for a second about how the Pharisees treated sinners—
- Think of the contempt for the tax collector that is expressed in the Pharisee’s prayer, “Lord, I thank you that I'm not like other men, or like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11).
- Think of the Pharisees dismissal of Jesus as well as sinners in the expression, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)
- Think of the arrogance of dragging an adulterous woman (John 8) before Jesus to use as a test cause to see how easy Jesus would be on sinners?
The Pharisees were absolutely convinced that they were righteous because they were right, so they had little use for people who were neither righteous nor right.
On my first trip to Ukraine, I was surprised to learn that a city Metro driver made more money than a physician. In the Soviet Union, doctors were seen as tradesman. Why? The explanation given to me was that sick people were of no use to the Soviet state, so the doctors who cared for them weren’t valued either. Could it be that the struggling and the sinful are dismissed because they are seen as having little value to the church?
Why did sinners so often flock to Jesus? Oh, sometimes they came for the free food (John 6:26). But the sinful and struggling made up the crowds who pressed around Jesus. Why? Jesus was accepted by the sinful and the struggling because Jesus accepted them. He spoke to multi-married Samaritan woman of John 4. He spent time with the tax-cheat Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, so the lost came seeking Him as well!
The church needs to do better at being a place that receives the riff-raff (ultimately, that’s what we all are, right?). We need to do better at welcoming people who struggle, rather than being willing to receive them once they get themselves straight. If we are really Christ-followers, the sinful and strugglers who find themselves in our midst will feel that they came to the right place!