Monday, June 8, 2015

The Friend of Broken People

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. (Luke 11:37 NASB)

Jesus and the Pharisees sparred constantly. The Pharisees had reduced faith to a series of rules so stringent no one could follow them. They had reduced repentance to a monetary exchange of payoffs and reduced forgiveness to a marketplace transaction. Experts in Mosaic law, they were, for the most part, steadily leading their fellow Jews away from a relationship with God. 

If any group was an outright enemy of Christ, it was the Pharisees. They were the ones that would eventually push for His arrest, His trial, and His crucifixion. At this point in Jesus' ministry, the conflict between Him and the Pharisees was beginning to escalate. Then, a surprising thing happened. 

Jesus had been speaking to a crowd about prayer, casting out demons, and the Sign of Jonah. A Pharisee was among the people gathered that day. After Jesus finished speaking, the Pharisee approached Him and invited Him to eat lunch. In my mind's eye, I can see Jesus smile, nod His head, and tell the man, "Sure, I'd be glad to have lunch with you." That may not be how it happened, but Jesus agreed to the man's invitation.

He did not call the Pharisee names. He did not condemn the Pharisee for his sin. He did not publicly shame the Pharisee. He did not attempt to abolish all Pharisees. 

What Jesus did instead was to love the Pharisee. He spent time with the Pharisee. He honored the Pharisee by His presence. He was kind to the Pharisee, but His kindness did not extend to agreeing with his sin. When the Pharisees and his friends questioned Jesus, He spoke truth, but He spoke it with love. It is important to note that Jesus spoke the hard truth after He had spent time with the Pharisee and shared a meal together. (The Pharisees were angered by the truth but that's a topic for a different day.)

This particular Pharisee may not have embraced Christ's teachings and may not have become a believer, but some of the Pharisees did. They watched Jesus love everyone, listened to His truth, and followed Him. 

When our beliefs differ from those of others around us, we must follow the example of Christ. He loved everyone, especially sinners. His greatest condemnation was not for lost people but for people who claimed to be "God's people" yet were far from Him.

Jesus' life was filled with broken people looking for a way to be made whole, and mine  should be, too. If my life is not inhabited by broken people who see something whole in me, I need to ask myself why not. 

How do we respond to people who disagree with us? To people considered "sinners" by the religious establishment? With whom do we spend our time?

If we are to be like Jesus, we need to love the lost and broken as much as He does. It's the best way to bring them to the One who can make them whole. 

We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:19-21 NASB)