NOT COOKIE CUTTER
Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Mark 2:13-17 NLT
Early in my pastoral ministry I read a book by Dr. Jack Hayford. In the book he talked about the purpose of the church and made a statement that has resonated with my spirit for years. Dr. Hayford said, “The church is not to be a country club for cookie cutter Christians but a hospital for hurting humanity.” Jesus dwelt with the “country club” mentality during His ministry on earth. The religious people had a problem with Jesus associating with “tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.” Jesus had invited Levi, a tax collector, to be His disciple. Tax collectors were the lowest on the social scale. They were Jews who were collecting taxes for the Roman invaders. They were considered traders and cheats because they often charged more taxes than Rome demanded and lined their own pockets with the profits. When Levi is influenced with the teachings of Jesus, he immediately wants his friends to know this Jesus. Levi didn’t have any “good” people as his friends. They were tax collectors and sinners like himself. He throws a dinner party to introduce his friends to Jesus. The religious leaders evidently come to observe and are upset Jesus is eating with people like this. The spirit of the Pharisee is present within the Church today. There are always those who think only certain kind of people should be allowed in church. They forget what they were once like. They forget that we are all sinners saved by grace. God invited us into His family when we didn’t deserve the invitation. We didn’t get into the family of God because of our perfection.
The Church should be a place of healing and hope for the hurting and lost. The moment we stop having our doors open to anyone and everyone is the moment we lose the presence and power of Jesus. Jesus hangs out with the sick and sinful to invite them to wholeness, forgiveness, and grace.
Holy Spirit please help me to see people the way You see them. Help me to always be open to love those who may appear to be unlovely.
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