This is our last study on goodness. I asked God what he wanted me to share with you on goodness. He was very direct.
God sent His only Son to walk and live among us. We know he was about healing the sick, teaching about God and leading people to be followers of God. He was with folks who others often looked down upon or was ostracized.
We find in this passage, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17 The teachers of the law were critical of Jesus eating and spending time with these folks. In their eyes these are not who Jesus should have spent time with.
God shared with me this morning that in Jesus’ goodness he spent time, teaching, healing, and loving those who others thought were unloveable and the least deserving. He looked past their faults, saw them as ones he created and loved them right where they were. I think seeing his goodness, living with him, being healed by him and his loving them they began to see the changes that needed to be made in their lives. He didn’t force them to change. He loved them just as they were and was good to them and because he was they wanted to change.
I am thinking if we want to have the kind of goodness in our lives that Christ did as He walked this earth we MUST do the same. We MUST get away from judging how others live their lives. We MUST not see them as sinners who need saving. Instead we MUST see them as Christ saw them. We MUST reach out to them just as Christ reached out to them and most of all we MUST love them like he did.
He did not ask them to change their lives, get their act together, or to stop sinning before spending time with him. He accepted them where they were. He loved them as they were. He spent time with them just as they were.
As he spent time with them, as he shared God’s love with them and as he taught them, they began to see a different way of life. Read the following scripture with me:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
In this passage everyone seems to think Zacchaeus was a deceitful man; some even called him sinner. Christ did not let what others had to said about Zacchaeus influence him. He did not tell or even ask Zacchaeus to change who he was before he went to his house. I am sure Christ knew and loved Zacchaeus just as he was. I think he saw the heart of Zacchaeus and saw what he could become. Because Zacchaeus heard the message Christ had for him. He changed.
Those folks who we think are unloveable, who we think are sinning in God’s eyes will never come to our churches and hear the message God has for them if we don’t reach out to them. If we don’t love them as Christ loves them they will never enter our doors. If they think they have to change before they can come into our churches they will never come.
It’s only when we look past what the world has to say about them, it’s only when we offer love, it’s only when we say we are a church that heals and only when we say we don’t care what you have done in the past or are doing now will they enter our doors to hear the message God has for them. It’s not in us to change them We can’t. All we can do is plant the seed and let God do the rest.
What would have happened if Christ only spoke to those who the world thought was good enough to hear the message? What would have happened to the man beside the pool who couldn’t help himself or refused to? What would the church look like today if only those “good enough” heard the message?
I read this somewhere, “The church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.” If our church is full of saints and not a hospital for those who have done wrong then something is wrong with our church. We must remember this, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23. We have all sinned at some point in our lives, we may be sinning now and we know we will sin again. What would happen to us if others judged us as we judge others? What would happen if we were not allowed in to hear God’s message?
What would have happened to each of us if someone thought we weren’t good enough to be in the churches we are in today? What would have happened to us if someone came and told us we had to clean up our act before we entered the doors of our beloved church? We wouldn’t be in the church today we love so much. So why are we keeping others out? Why are we asking them to make changes in their lives before we accept them?
Jesus saw the potential in Zacchaeus and was willing to risk it. Maybe we should be looking at the potential in others and take a risk. Maybe we should love others unconditionally, just as they are, just like Jesus.
Let’s begin to open our doors to all who may want to come and hear the message God has for them. Let’s wrap our arms around them and offer them a place where they can come and be healed and made well. Let’s look for the potential in them and take a risk. Someone took the risk for us; let’s take the risk for others. Are you willing? It’s not easy I know I have been there. But, God does not call us to a life of ease, he calls us to a life that is different than the world. God is calling us to be loving not judgmental. God wants us to be different. He’s calling us back to being a hospital not a museum.
Are you willing to risk it all for others sake? For Christ?
Dear God: This is not an easy message. This message is one I need to listen to, reread, and to obey. Help me to take the risk and love others as you love them and help me to meet them where they are. Help me to see the potential in each person as they come through the doors and not their lifestyle or their hangups or their sin. Help me as I deal with judging others first instead of see the potential in them. Help the church to be loving and accepting to all those who need to hear God’s words. Let us not be in the business of trying to change lives, instead let us be in the business of planting seeds and allow God to do what needs to be done in the lives of others. Thank you for stepping on my toes and getting me to the heart of this issue. Guide me as I begin a new way of thinking about others. Amen