Make no mistake, prejudice is an enemy of the heart.
Self-righteousness is not a trait to seek, and yet it still appears in ample supply in too many churches. Judgmentalism is contagious and spreads like a virus when we choose to close our eyes to the beauty in others and ignore the fact that men and women were created in God's image.
Nobody has more of a divine image than another. It was distributed equally. Every human being has been fearfully and wonderfully made no matter what label might be slapped on their package, but more often than not, believers willingly throw away God’s truth about value and proceed to make up their own rogue rules that result in dishonoring all that they should already know to be important.
Committing to the nonsense that one group of people is better than another solely based upon the color of someone’s skin, the place someone lives, the school or church someone attends is misguided and an unnecessary manmade barrier built with no blessing from the Lord. This mindset leads to bullying, intimidation, and the use of other forms of manipulation that have no place in God's kingdom. It encourages highbrow, conceited, self-appointed judges who do nothing to help spread the joy and freedom that happens when someone devotes themselves to following Jesus. I don’t care what the crowds say, if Christ did not initiate it, I want no part of it.
Jesus loved to cause a stir when a wake-up call was necessary. He purposely got under the skin of the holier than thou hypocrites of His day. He made sure that all of the worldly judges and juries of that day knew that He meant business when it came to blowing their phony standards out of the water.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. He called Matthew, the Levite, a dreaded tax-collector, the pond scum of the neighborhood to be one of His disciples.
I loved that Jesus never messed around. He went right at the issue, rather than tiptoe around the blatant elephants in the room. Those who followed our Lord included lepers, prostitutes, samaritans, women, and other “sinners” that would have never made the grade the Pharisee's way.
What does it mean to be a “friend of sinners?” Among religious Jews, eating with a person implied a significant and intimate contact and a gesture of acceptance. It was an invitation to enter into a relationship with your dinner date, but being a friend of sinners didn’t mean Jesus was pulled into Matthew’s corruption, but Jesus pulling Matthew into real Christianity.
Jesus goes into the crowd and invites anyone who admits that they will never be able to rescue themselves. Are you a friend of sinners? Are you on a mission to offer light to those who currently don’t realize that they are walking in darkness?
A lifeguard doesn’t decide ahead of time what type of person he or she is willing to go out and save from drowning. It includes individuals of all colors, shapes and sizes. If you have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, then you know what amazing grace tastes like and you want to make sure that everyone in your path gets to taste and see that Jesus is wonderful. We need to love people the way God does no matter what anyone else thinks because what the naysayers think stinks.
Do we see what people presently are, or do we envision what a person could be if Jesus got ahold of their hearts? We need to be looking to run a mission one yard from hell's gates, rather than living comfortably within the sound of the chapel bell.
God strategically placed His people on this planet for such a time as this. There are too many looking to the government to do what only God can accomplish.
We don’t need more information. We need a miraculous transformation. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Jesus. Having a regular dinner date with the Lord will make you ready to reach anyone God may send to your table.
Do you see the crowds hurting, hungry, and in desperate need of healing? Are you ready to open your life rather wide, rather than board up your heart and soul? Who do you need to have dinner with where the love of Jesus is clearly on the menu?
None of us would say that we espouse the belief system of religious snobs, and yet if we only go to Christian doctors, make appointments with Christian dentists, call Christian plumbers for our clogged pipes, and need Christian veterinarians because even our pets are Christians, we will end up passing by hundreds of people without ever noticing them or positively influencing them with Jesus' grace and mercy. Our Lord said clearly that He came for those who admitted that they did not have it all together. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to coddle the self-righteous, but sinners.”
Fear is sometimes referred to as an acronym for false evidence appearing real. We see fear everywhere these days, and it is no way to ignite a life. Is fear playing a role in your interactions, or lack thereof, with people of different races, people of different backgrounds, people of different belief-systems?
If we allow our fear to control us, we’re dishonoring ourselves and our ability to honor others. It is OK to be afraid, but it is a genuine faith that will give us the strength we need to not stay locked in our insecurities.
“God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Who needs to know great news like that?
Will you trust God to lead you to build real relationships, recognizing God's image in everyone, committed to learning someone’s story, so that you may be an instrument of life in their world? Jesus sat down with sinners, dined with them, and offered them a whole new menu. By His Holy Spirit, We should be willing to do nothing less than the same. Waiters and waitresses of the Living God sound like what we the church should be about. Who needs a table today?
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.