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Desiring the Undesireable and Attracting the Unattractive

Perhaps it’s only human nature- though such is usually just an excuse for failure to be of divine nature to the degree that we should (cf. 2Peter 1:4), but we don’t always feel the way we should about visitors to our assemblies.  When a young couple with small and well-behaved children fills out a visitor’s card indicating that they’re “new to the area” and “looking for a new church home,” we get much more excited than when a single, middle-aged or older man or woman does the same.  The former prompts the “wouldn’t they be great additions to our congregation” thought and comment, while the latter seems to elicit “I wonder how many times he/she has been married and divorced?” or “does he/she even have a job?” responses.   Been there, done that: guilty.  While it can certainly be a factor, such emotions and responses are not always about economic status.  Some potential newcomers are viewed as having “too many problems,” and are thus relegated to the “not worth the effort” category.  Likewise, I’ve felt that way, thought that way, and probably acted that way too: guilty.  If you have felt, thought, or acted in these ways also, please keep reading...

“And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and other people who were reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-gatherers and sinners?’  And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call righteous men but sinners to repentance,” Luke 5:29-32.   Please note:

  • Levi, a.k.a. Matthew, gave this reception in his house, v.29.
  • Formerly, Levi was a tax-gatherer, but when called, he left his lucrative profession (tax-gatherers were typically corrupt, and therefore wealthy) to follow Jesus, vv.27-28.
  • Many other tax-gatherers and sinners not only came to the reception, but also were following Him, cf. Mark 2:15.
  • The Pharisees and their scribes saw two things: 1) both the nature and number of those who were attracted to and becoming followers of Jesus; and, 2) Jesus’ willingness to not only associate with but also accept them, cf. Matthew 9:10-11.
  • Though jealousy may have been their true motivation, the Pharisees and scribes accused Jesus of eating with (associating) the wrong people (sinners, undesirables), v.30.
  • Jesus’ answer certainly did not condone the Pharisees as righteous (cp. Matthew 23), but it did commend the practice of calling sinners to repentance, vv.31-32.

Now, with these things before us, and to borrow from Jesus’ words to a certain lawyer in Luke 10:37, How are we to “go and do the same” if we don’t feel and act toward “sinners” as He did?  How can we claim to share His mission to “seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10) if we actually have more in common with the attitude of the Pharisees toward them?  Does your emotion for, attitude regarding, and activity toward spiritually lost people more resemble that of Jesus’ compassionate help (Luke 5:31; Mark 6:34), or the scribes and Pharisees contemptuous disregard (Luke 5:30)?  If it’s the latter, have you ever wondered why you feel and act that way? 

When we fail to have a Christ-like attitude toward the lost, it’s usually because:

  1. We have a inflated image of ourselves, cf. Luke 18:10-14;
  2. We have a wrong perception of the importance of our own personal interests, cp. Matthew 15:1-6; Philippian 2:3-4; and (among other reasons),
  3. We have an immature and carnal view of the Christ and His Kingdom.  The “success” of any local body of believers is not measured by its desire or ability to attract and keep the most desirable and attractive members.  That seemed to be the modus operandi of the scribes and Pharisees!  Instead, “success” should be gauged by a local congregation’s willingness to invite, associate with, and call to repentance everyone in need of salvation. Wasn’t this what Levi and Jesus did?

Remember the concluding words of Jesus in Levi’s account of the story, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” Matthew 9:13.  Until we “get” this part, we’ll never learn to desire the undesirable, and attract the unattractive, and may wind up sharing eternity with the Pharisees.