Eating With Sinners
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9: 9-13
A few observations here… First Matthew got up and followed Jesus right away without any questions or debate. Then immediately Matthew offered hospitality opening his home to Jesus and his disciples so that they could eat there. Hospitality should be an important aspect of our faith. When you open your heart to Jesus you should also open your home for fellowship right away.
The Pharisees, instead of rejoicing in this opportunity for Jesus to share with tax collectors and sinners, were bothered and accusatory because Jesus was eating with such people. Jesus was quick to put the Pharisees in their place and challenge them to go and learn what “mercy, not sacrifice” means. Then Jesus closed the conversation by telling them that He came to call sinners and not the righteous. The catch to that phrase is the fact that no one is righteous and we are all sinners. However, the religious who always view themselves as righteous because of pride and the sacrifices they make in front of other men, always fall way short of even beginning to understand what mercy is.
Mercy is responding with compassion instead of judgment towards those who are in need. It is treating people with kindness and sharing in their suffering instead looking down at them from a safe position or distance. The righteous/religious are rarely willing to meet someone at their level of need. Showing mercy means we have a willingness to get our hands dirty while helping those in need in the midst of their situation. Being merciful means we meet the needs of those deemed as unworthy by the religious and society in general. Being merciful means we serve and love sinners, in the midst of their sin, as Jesus would.
I would rather eat and hang out with so called sinners instead of Pharisees any day. True ministry is sharing your entire life with those in need. It is not about sharing a few bible verses with someone. We are called to walk in love and mercy towards others. Most “Christians” rarely, if ever, eat with sinners; but Jesus sure did. When was the last time you ate or hung out with “sinners”? The mindset of most “church goers” I meet is to avoid the world and sinners at all cost. The most ministry many “Christians” ever do is inviting someone to come to their “church” service on Sunday or worse just giving someone a bible tract to read. People we should be laying our lives down for the sake of others. We should live and work out loud among those who are yet to know Him. Love, mercy, compassion, hope, and grace are only valid when they are shared with one in need. These are supposed to be realities of our everyday life and not the exception. I have probably said too much, but I am going to ponder these things some more.
However, before I ponder I am going to share what happened here in Sturgis Friday in the late afternoon. Caleb and I were driving home from a driveway we had just sealcoated ten miles South of town when we received a phone call from a woman in need. Melinda told me she was over 7 months pregnant and she had not eaten anything in over 2 days. She found my number listed in the local paper’s “Religion” page, where all local “churches”, for free, can provide information on their fellowships meeting times and such. Our housechurch has been listed there for over 25 years now.
Melinda told me that she had called at least 20 other “churches” asking for help with food and all these “churches” told her basically that they don’t do “benevolence” in the community anymore, because they “outsourced” that “ministry” to the local Salvation Army by giving them a check each month. However, the Salvation Army only allows for one food basket per family each month and Melinda already used up her basket 2 weeks ago and she needed food now. I then asked Melinda for her phone number and address and told her I would call back soon. I fought off getting extremely pissed off with the other local “churches” and told Caleb what was going on. We then immediately prayed together and then went straight to the grocery store.
We bought 40 dollars worth of food and took it to a very surprised and happy pregnant woman and told her if she needed anything else just to call us. I then apologized for the coldheartedness of the other “churches” she had contacted. Then she asked why our church was willing to help when the others turned her away. I told her that when Mary was pregnant with Jesus she was also turned away, and that fact has always motivated us to help other pregnant women in need. I also said that our home fellowship does not have any Clergy to pay or buildings to maintain and because of that our funds are always fluid and available for benevolence. We prayed with Melinda and then we left for home.
When I got home I sent an email to the whole local ministerial association scolding them for their lack of mercy and benevolence in this situation. 1 Pastor responded with sincere repentance while 6 others told me I had no right to call them out and judge them in such a manner. To me a true church responds to the needs of others in their community. Especially when the one in need is pregnant. The true church should never say, “there is no more room at the Inn.”
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
P.s. This whole thing just really pisses me off deep in my Spirit. Yet another reason why, many if not most, institutional “churches” suck. Authentic Churches are all about benevolence IMHO.
P.s. The events detailed above happened a year and a half ago. I am happy to report that today as I was leaving the grocery store one of the local “Pastors” came up to me and told me I was right to have rebuked him and the other “Pastors” for not providing food and comfort to the pregnant woman last summer. George told me he repented and has been making restitution by helping others in need. I thanked George and we exchanged a big hug. Sometimes it takes awhile, but speaking the truth in love always gets results IMHO.