Jesus is criticized for eating with “sinners.” There are always people ready to criticize those who go out of their way to reach out to people who are on the margins of society, but there is more going on here than simply that. First, the Pharisees are utterly blind to their own sin. Some love to talk of “sinners” as if that category excluded themselves! We are all “in the same boat”; we are all broken, messed up, sinners.
Second, Jesus is demonstrating who God is. God is not the God who stands away from our brokenness and mess and despises us and keeps a distance from us. He, in Christ, came right down to help, to pour out his grace and power, to save us through his death on the cross. Jesus eating with “sinners” epitomizes that love that God has for people like you and me.
Jesus tells two parables to illustrate this point, one about a lost sheep, and the other about a lost coin. We think perhaps of heaven only being happy about people who never do anything wrong—those fictional beings of perfection—but here we are told that heaven rejoices over sinners who repent. And God is the God who pursues us sinners, even to death and death on a cross, in order to save us.
- Is this how we view God? Or do we think of God as the God who is more like the Pharisees’ idea of God—never hanging out with sinners, never even eating with them, let alone dying for them?
- Is this how we act towards other people? Do we reach out to those who are broken, or do we keep our distance from them?
- Is this how we treat ourselves? Do we need to pretend to ourselves that we are perfect, for fear that God will reject us, or do we confess our sins to God freely in the context of his love and grace, and by God’s power find fresh courage to start again?
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