Jesus, Saints and Sinners

            Jesus is often blamed for our lack of love for humanity.  How many times have we said, “I was just speaking the truth?”  We only fail by leaving out the remainder of our faith—with love.  How many times have we yelled judgment at sinners and used Jesus in the temple to justify our actions?  How many times have we hidden our judgment behind, “I am a prophet so I only see black and white, there is no gray?”  Somehow we fail to remember that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.  The answer to these questions is too many, too often, and too easily!

            We fail to really dissect the Gospel message of Jesus, and the theme of the Bible.  One of the most important pieces of information when interpreting any speech or written communication is—who is the audience, who is the speaker, or writer trying to reach?  When we fail to ask this question we put ourselves in a position to misunderstand everything we read in the Bible.

            The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus speaking the truth in love.  They are full of Jesus coming into contact with saints and sinners.  The interesting study is a dissection of His responses to each group.  This is important because Jesus tempered His message to meet His audience.  Just as we talk differently to an adult than we do to a child, Jesus responded differently to the sinners than He did to the saints.  His expectations were greater for the saints.  His judgments were harsher for the saints.  His patience was shorter for the saints.

            To confuse this is to confuse the entire nature of Jesus’ ministry.  It is no accident that He responded differently to saints and sinners. It appears to be one of the most deliberate things He ever did.  He responded differently because each group required a different approach.  His intention was the same for both groups—to bring them into true fellowship with the Father.  Yet, He realized the end result would only be achieved through radically different approaches.  He was the ultimate minister of the Gospel.  And He was the Gospel.

            Scripture is clear that God does not respect man in the same way we do.  He looks to the heart and judges a man based on his heart.  More than that, God understands the futility of financial gain and the things that we consider powerful.  As a result, He is not impressed with our riches and the trappings of our power.

            Jesus understood this during His earthly ministry.  It is reflected in the way He approached people. He was not intimidated by the rich and the famous of His day.  He stood before the powerful rulers and explained the origins of their power.  He told the ruler of Israel, Pontius Pilate, that He had no power that was not given to him by God.  Jesus also understood this when He approached the poor and humble of society.  When He sat with the drunkards and the prostitutes He knew where true power came from.  He understood what really mattered and confirmed His ministry to the form necessary to convert these people.

            We, on the other hand, use Jesus angry in the temple, turning over tables, as a justification to tell the world the good news that they are going to hell.  We use Jesus, talking to the Scribes and Pharisees, or the saints of His day, roughly as an excuse to blast the sin in the world around us.

            What we fail to comprehend is that Jesus is not angry with sinners.  His anger was expressed toward those who claimed to know the truth and did not do it.  He expressed anger at those who had been shown mercy, but had failed to show mercy when confronted with sin.

            Paul was practicing this very approach when he said that he would become all things to all men that he might win some.  He was concerned with meeting people where they were.  He did not approach the lost of his day as if they should already be living a life of holiness.  At the same time, he did not approach those who professed to be believers as if they were excused from being holy.  He required of each person what each person should be giving according to their place in life.

            Sinners who sin are doing what they do.  It is not their job to merely turn to God.  It is our job to show them the truth of our faith and help them make a decision to turn to God.  Condemnation does lead to salvation.  Grace is what brought us in, why don’t we try giving it the rest of the lost?

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Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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