"..Yet in My Flesh I Will See GOD" [Job. 19.26]

Monday, February 19, 2018

How Jesus Really Saw Sinners, Religious Leaders and the Rich

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Let's not see it with the eyes of the Pharisees and law teachers. It reeks of toleration. They thought Christ mingled with sinners to assure them of God's love even if they continued enjoying sin. And that's how a lot of people see it today.

But then, on the other hand, there are church people who shun the company of sinners altogether and would have nothing to do with them. So we have two extremes---those who teach that God tolerates sin and those who are repulsed by sinners. Oh, there's a third extreme---those who don't give a damn.

Jesus didn't just fellowship with sinners. He sought to "call" them [Mark 2.17]. We already know this, but often we still miss the point. We see it as the Pharisees and religious leaders did---that Jesus simply enjoyed sinners and he was a bad example because we aren't supposed to be seen with them.

I've seen churches put in active ministry or position people wallowing in sin because "the church is for sinners." Ridiculous, but that's how they see it. Christ died for sinners so they should be given special treatment in church. I've also seen churches who despise sinners altogether and they don't want them inside their churches. Their church is only for holy ones.

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You still see a lot of church people, even pastors, having difficulty balancing between immersion and separation or mingling and avoiding. But both are in Scriptures:

Therefore, "Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." [2 Corinthians 6.17]

And there's also this passage:

Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." [1 Corinthians 15.33]

God repeatedly warned the Israelites in the Old Testament about being contaminated spiritually if they mingled with gentiles. But then, at the other extreme end of this is the challenge to mingle with sinners. Sometimes, we are even challenged to immerse ourselves in their company without being affected in any way. Jesus told us to live like sheep amidst wolves. You cannot keep yourself away from wolf territory. Instead, God's will is that we live right inside it as we remain sheep. 

The use of sheep is to be sheared and slaughtered. It's a given. So, if you're in wolf territory (and you should be), always expect worse scenarios. It's a way of life. And Like Jesus, we should remain calm when led to the slaughter and be silent before our shearers. Sheep is designed for sacrifice.

But what happens is that we either become wolves ourselves eventually in wolf territory (even leading the pack in the end) or simply walk out of wolf territory to be kept spotless sheep high up on some mountain alone. Even after centuries, a lot of churches still struggle with this. They dangle on either ends of the stick and hardly keeps a steady balance of things.

All we need to do really is watch how Jesus did it in Scriptures. You often see him with ordinary folks, most of them poor. In that company, he mingled with both followers and the merely curious. He always preached to sinners in both. The idea is to "call" them to repentance and a higher life of picking up their crosses, denying self and following him.

Judas was given a place in his ministry and even chosen as money bag keeper from which he stole money from. It's like how some churches also put in position members who are carnal or still enjoying sin. But take note that Judas didn't last long and how he died. God didn't allow him to stay and he was doomed to always be remembered through history as the man who betrayed the Lord. That's clear enough that God doesn't want active sinners in his ministry. They can attend church but not take leadership position.

I mention this because there are some who insist that active sinners can be given positions in ministry because Judas was made treasurer in Jesus' ministry while he was thieving. We should know what we should apply as God's will and what we should learn as lessons to avoid. I can imagine how Judas was not like that when he was given the position, but somewhere along the way he became greedy. The same with Satan when he was still a guardian cherub in heaven.

You must master being able to be comfortable with any type of people, although Jesus noticeably was very seldom seen with certain groups of people, like the religious leaders and the rich. He was never seen in company with the religious elite---the titled and degreed---except when they joined the crowd around Jesus to bad-mouth him. Or when Nicodemus went to him one night.

Well, Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' house---this is one instance Jesus connected with a rich fellow---and he willingly entertained the centurion with a dying slave. But most times, Jesus was with the poor and helpless. That's how we should be in the company of sinners---we should often prefer marginalized sinners. The balance is having limited times with the rich (with those who tend to like or be inclined to Jesus) and more time with ordinary folks.

I laugh when I see churches going after rich people because of their potential to give money, even if these rich folks would have nothing to do, whatsoever, with Jesus. They're given important seats during worship service and later elected to position. I can't imagine Jesus doing this. Jesus did mingle with sinners, but he had an apparent priority option for the poor.

Jesus mingled with sinners to call them to radical change, not just to be with them. With influential sinners like Nicodemus (for we are all sinners), he talked about giving up position and power. And with rich sinners, he often challenged them about giving up their wealth.

Yes, he loves you and is willing to be in your company for a time even if you're a sinner. But he calls you to himself and urges you to give up everything you have.

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