July 28th, 2023

Luke 15:1-2 CSB – All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

I think this verse often gets overlooked, but it’s a powerful summary of how Jesus intended us to be in relationships with others. The Pharisees and scribes were complaining that Jesus was *gasp* treating people with respect and dignity, even though those people were sinners. The attitude of the day, especially in Pharisee culture, was to reject anyone with any outward signs of sin. Somehow, that same attitude of the Pharisees has permeated modern Christian culture, and often times we’re enabling that attitude by not emulating Christ.

Several years ago, I was in a church where, about ten minutes before the service was to begin, a homeless man walked through the doors looking for help. His clothes were ragged, he wasn’t clean, and he was carrying a lot of his belongings with him in a backpack. Instead of welcoming the man with open arms and asking how we could help, he was treated with suspicion and led to a back room where one of the pastors could talk to him without the congregation having to involve themselves in the issue. I later found out that the man was just looking to go to church, and because of the suspicion of nearly everyone in the building, he was denied an opportunity to worship. We never saw him again. Honestly, though, and I’m not too proud to admit, I was suspicious of the man as well. He wasn’t someone we’d seen around, he didn’t look like one of us, and we were all thinking “Oh my, what will everyone think?” I was an enabler of this behavior, a behavior which I think is our default reaction a lot of times to things that aren’t familiar to us. However, Jesus, in the verse above, clearly shows us, by his own example, how we’re to form relationships with folks. We’re to welcome them and share what we have with them, whether it be our time, clothing, a meal, money, or whatever. By doing that, and with an attitude of hospitality, we are truly acting in the same grace and spirit of Christ.