I love Chapter 9 of Matthew and the story of Jesus having dinner with the tax collectors and sinners. When the Pharisees, shocked and indignant as they were, asked why Jesus dined with such poor company, he answered (Verse 12-13) “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
That is why Jesus is a rock star – he respected and honored women, opposed the tyranny of self-righteous and evil church leaders, and honored those in low social circumstances such as tax collectors, prostitutes and other wretches like me. He knew he could not inspire hope in all if he mingled only with the best and most respected in society.
He also knew his Father’s message of love, grace and mercy had become lost on those who believed salvation could only be earned as a reward for strict adherence to the Biblical laws of the Old Testament. And he knew that he was sent to make it known to the world that obeying the laws served no purpose if doing so did little or nothing to bring lost men into the flock.
So to boil it down, Jesus was the ultimate mover and shaker, a real rebel working on our behalf long before we were born. Knowing that, how can anyone not love the guy?
It is true – some people get preoccupied with certain biblical truths and laws and focus only on them while excluding other important passages in the Bible. As I’ve heard it said, to truly understand Christianity is to first understand that in God mercy prevails over justice. In distant my past I let self-righteous people sour my taste for church, and later, I used their presence as an excuse to explain why I no longer wanted to attend church. It is only now in my reflection on my old ways that I see that I too was practicing a form of self-righteousness during those years. I was too good to go to church with people who thought they were too good to sit alongside me. I showed no mercy either.
Thank goodness I’ve learned though my reading and in church that if I try each day to make God-pleasing decisions, he will move me in a life-giving direction. God’s love and his salvation are generous gifts; no act I can perform nor change I could make in myself will earn me His love and my place with Him in Heaven. But he will show me mercy and love me without limitation now that I’ve finally chosen to love Him in return.