“Jesus was commonly criticized for spending too much time with sinners. How many of us could be accused of that?”
It’s fascinating that a lot of Christians don’t seem to like non-Christians, often referred to as the lost or the unchurched. Often we want to keep away from messy people—perhaps missing the obvious that we are messy as well.
Who’s on your “friends list”?
It’s interesting that after coming to Christ and growing in knowledge, we often distance ourselves from former friends. We seem to have less time for the hurting and struggling. We’ve found the thing that meets the need in our lives, but keep our distance from those who need the very thing we’ve found. I don’t think this separation is intentional, but it happens, and in the end, our intentions don’t matter.
Jesus lived differently.
One of the common criticisms Jesus faced was that he spent too much time with sinners. How many of us could be accused of spending too much time with the unwelcomed and unappreciated?
It wasn’t that Jesus was waiting for Paul to write, “Bad company corrupts good morals” in 1 Corinthians. No one better understood the importance of spiritual maturity, scriptural knowledge, a robust prayer life and positive influences than Jesus.
But he also knew these things were not for his personal benefit, but need to be shared with the lost. The Christian life is not about safety and comfort, but rather about finding yourself in a dangerous place of vulnerable compassion.
Separated From the Separated
One day, I was talking with one of my daughters about the dysfunction I experienced growing up. That kind of life is hard for her to imagine because our family doesn’t have those kinds of dysfunction.
She asked why some families go our way and others go the way of dysfunction. I told her there are several factors that determine personal and family stability, but in our case, we were changed by the power of the gospel.
I praise God my girls don’t deal with the problems that come from such brokenness, but I think my daughters may, in a sense, be representative of what many Christians experience—they don’t know what it’s like.
Many Christians have grown up in a Christian home. That is their reality and they forget there’s a hurting world out there. We drive through it on the way to school, work and church, but we don’t come to terms with the vast brokenness surrounding us.
Hurting people sometimes make their way into our pews and, by grace and through faith, respond to the good news of salvation. But too often, the only connections Christians have with broken people are made outside of church.
That’s why I love to hear a pastor say, “We’re going to be a church that cares about the hurting and serves those in need, showing the love of Christ to the lost.”
The true test of our maturity is not measured in how much we leave behind, but how much we love.
To Serve and to Save
I’m struck by the fact that Jesus talks about his ministry in two ways. In Luke 4:18, he says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.” He goes on to talk about preaching the good news to the poor and the captive.
In fact, this type of ministry was a sign that he was the Messiah. Prophecy was being fulfilled as he showed kindness to those who were hurting. Throughout Scripture we see the work of Christ among the widows, the blind, the broken—whoever had a need.
Jesus came to save.
In Luke 19:10 he says he came to seek and save the lost. And the same Jesus who came to serve and to save then says to us in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
We have been sent by Jesus to join him in his mission. We are to serve others in his name, and we are to share the good news of salvation so that people might trust in Jesus’ work on the cross—his death in our place, for our sin.
Serving and saving were marks of Christ’s life on earth. They should be marks of his people as well. But to do that, we must engage the broken and hurting people around us.
That’s hard. But a church without the broken is a broken church.
How does your church engage the hurting? What have you done in your own life to avoid insulating yourself from brokenness around you?