Accepting Everyone But Not Everything

The Pharisees didn't get it. They could not understand why Jesus was spending so much time with all those "tax collectors and sinners," the untouchable caste of their culture. You see, they believed that sin was something that was "caught," much the same way that one became ceremonially unclean by touching someone or something that ceremonially unclean. So why would any rabbi risk such contamination by eating with someone like Matthew and his collection of tax collectors and sinners? They didn't get it.

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31).

They didn't get Jesus' response either.  They didn't get that  Jesus was including THEM in the number of all those "sick" folks that Jesus had come to seek and save.  Jesus was trying to win everyone—publican and Pharisee alike. You know, given what we know about the Pharisees, we would likely point to all those times that Jesus ate at some Pharisee's house and ask, "Why does he spend so much time being chummy with all those Pharisees?" Jesus was trying to win everyone-- holy and unholy alike.  The Pharisees didn't get that they needed a doctor.

And I wonder if we have forgotten that the tax collectors needed the doctor too. Jesus didn't come to just call sinners (Matt 9:12). Jesus came to call them to repentance (Luke 5:31). No, Jesus never declared war on the sinners of his culture.  He never carried signs proclaimed God hates this or that sin or sinner.  Jesus was called the friend of sinners" (Matt 11:19), but He also called sinners to repentance.  Jesus accepted everyone, but he didn't accept everything. He accepted people and sat around the table with them so he could encourage them to repent.  Jesus remarked about how different was the public perception was between himself and John the Baptist (again, Matt 11:19), but their message was the exactly same, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt 3:2, 4:12). Jesus didn't just accept sinners; He also called them to stop sinning (John 5:14, 8:11).

I wonder if in our rush to accept everyone (like Jesus) that we have failed to call everyone to repent (like Jesus). Kenda Creasy Dean in here book Almost Christian has coined the acronym “MTD.” She claims the actual religion taught in many (most) American churches today is not Christianity but Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Moralistic because it helps us to be basically good people. Therapeutic because it helps us to feel better about ourselves. And Deism because God largely stays out of our way. Dean refers to this as "pasteurized" Christianity where all the "transformative elements cooked out." In our rush to accept everybody we have accepted everything.

Christianity is about discipleship, about picking up the cross of Jesus and following him. It is about living as a counterculture in a world that is not our own as we look for "a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:20). It about following Jesus "outside the camp, bearing the disgrace that he bore" (Heb 13:12). It is about standing against the prevailing values and ideals of this world because they stand opposed to the values and ideals of the kingdom of God.

We must accept everyone, but we cannot accept everything.  We must call everyone (including ourselves) to repentance.