There is an account of Jesus eating with sinners at Matthew’s house in Mark 2:13-17. The religious elites weren’t invited, and that offended them. Jesus told them it wasn’t the healthy that needed a doctor, but the sick. That he came for the sinners, not the righteous.
Jesus had just offended the sinners there, too. I never thought of that till it was pointed out in a Sunday night Bible study.
Think about it. You’re a world-famous Christian leader, and Jesus ignores you to eat with homeless drug addicts, LGBTQ+, illegal immigrants, and criminals. How would you feel?
Or Jesus does eat with you. He knows all your faults and failings, then calls you sick. He tells you that you need a doctor. We don’t like being confronted with our wrong side. How do you feel here?
Days later, I’m reading Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
What is this speaking truth in love? I’ve always struggled with that. It’s the truth of the gospel spoken and lived out in love.
Not with a combative attitude. We’re not supposed to throw Bibles at people like hand grenades. Or shoot Bible verses from Leviticus at them. Careful, the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword and will cut us open, too.
In all things, from our speech to our lives, we follow Jesus’ example. This takes us back to the dinner in Mark, where Jesus just offended everyone. He didn’t ignore who they are or what they’re doing.
So what did Jesus do around sinners? Our group said:
- He was around them but didn’t take part in their sin.
- Jesus didn’t enable or applaud their bad behavior.
- He developed relationships but didn’t hide his light.
Pastor Randy added the following:
- Engage with people in the open, and with others. Don’t do it behind closed doors, do it in community. Everyone saw what Jesus was doing.
- Include sinners, but don’t ignore their sin. (I tend to lecture and don’t have the grace to point this out yet gently.)
- Check your motives for hanging out with sinners. Is it to get them into God’s kingdom, or to relive the old days in their kingdom. Do not overestimate your ability to say no to sin. (I can get sucked into gossip at work.)
- Don’t confuse lost people with false Christians. Have nothing to do with them. These are who Paul writes about in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 5:11.
Why can’t we have anything to do with them? Because it confuses the lost. They’re not sure what a saved person looks like. How often are Christians called hypocrites?
This is why.
Here’s what I leave you with that I’m working through. Pastor Randy said that a doctor that knows you’re sick, but tellsyou that you’re okay is guilty of maltreatment.
That’s what it is like to hold back because you’re afraid of offending someone.
Truth in love while offending someone? I think it all comes down to motives. Is it redemptive? Is it because you want what is best for them or to tear them down?
Something to think about. Here’s the full lesson from that night.