“…they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.’ ” (Matthew 9:11-13, CEB)
Jesus was always challenging the established norms of the day. Often this involved him engaging with those whom the religious elite and aware would not be caught dead with, i.e., sinners. And often, those ultra-religious types would challenge Jesus about such associated practices. It was after such a challenge when Jesus responded with the quote from Matthew above. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find immense personal comfort in Jesus’ response. Because, if Jesus came to identify and validate the already righteous that they may proceed to Heaven, I am afraid my name would not be on that list. But if Jesus came to offer guidance and opportunity for the unrighteous—i.e., sinners—to find their way to righteousness, well then there is hope for me.
Perhaps this hope is not so different from the hope we have upon going to the doctor when we are ill or there is something not quite right with us. Our hope is that the doctor will know what our problem is, and then offer us the way to become healthy. Some continue this line of thought to draw parallels between a hospital and the church, that is, a place where people who are sick can go to find credible knowledge, support, and healing.
Actually, in many ways, I think Jesus was describing the Church with his words in this passage. For, one might define the church as, “Imperfect people who know they need a Savior, working together to build relationships, helping those in need, and glorifying God by striving to be like Christ and sharing His love with others” (ref. “What is the Biblical Definition of Church”, Dr. M. L. Williams, 2014).
I think I like that definition even better than the “hospital” parallel, as it contains specifics that I not only can understand and relate to, but I can identify tangible ways that I am, and am not, practicing Church. For sure, I have the “imperfect” part down pat. Second, really knowing I need a Savior involves a daily dose of humility and openness. Third, building relationships and helping others in need calls me to always be looking beyond myself and to understand that we are all in this together. And finally, glorifying God by striving every day to be like Christ in every way I can, then presenting that likeness to the world through the sharing of His love with other people, and doing so with others who are doing the same, makes us as the church, Church.
Perhaps that is our challenge today: to strive to understand and make manifest Jesus’ idea of church, i.e., learning and doing what it means to be His Church. Then, perhaps, we may know that Jesus calls us, in all our imperfections, to make known to all who seek the saving way of Christ. Perhaps sometime this month, you may share with someone you love, one way Christ has shown you how He saves.
Peace and blessings to you always … Pastor Bob