Jesus attracted the down and out, the dreary and weary, the tax collector and sinner. And the church should do the same. The church should be a place where sinners of all stripes have a place in the pew. The church should not reflect the country club that checks membership at the door. The church should not reflect the a-list party with an invite only guest list. The church should not reflect a peanut gallery where people are judged and criticized.
No. The church should reflect Jesus Christ.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1-2
Luke 15 is a powerful chapter but these two verses will have an impact on everything that follows. These opening verses communicate the message: The good news of Jesus Christ is good news for everyone.
In this particular instance, a collection of sinners has gathered to hear Jesus preaching good news. Yet, this leaves the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttering in disapproval. Yet, Jesus has no problem welcoming and eating with sinners. For we all need good news.
In the eyes of the religious crowd of the day: How could Jesus hang with such lowlifes?! In the eyes of Jesus: These are the people that need me the most.
The church should welcome sinners because sinners need a Savior.
The church should be a place of genuine confession.
In confession we lay bare our sins before God. We own up to our sin. We name our sin. We repent of our sin. We seek forgiveness.
I place the qualifier “genuine” prior to confession because the church crowd can tend to fake confession. We speak of our sin but we never really name it or repent of it. Or we see our sin as insignificant, which leads us to minimize our own sin but maximize the sin of everyone else. I see this at play in this passage. The Pharisees and teachers of the law overlook their own sin and grumble and mumble about Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners.
The church should be a place of genuine welcome.
Because we all need the good news of Jesus Christ … the church should be open to everyone. And not just open – but a place where sinners feel welcomed. Jesus did not turn away sinners and neither should the church. This is good news. Broken people can be made whole. Sinful people can find a Savior.
It’s outside the scope of these verses but one more thing needs to be discussed. The church should be a place of confession and welcome. Yet, that does not mean the church casually accepts sin. No. There’s more:
The church should be a place of genuine discipleship.
The church should become more like Jesus each and everyday. Come as you are but you don’t get to remain that way.
You are a sinner in need of savior. You have a savior in Jesus Christ – the one who died on the cross for the sin represented in this room. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Confess your sin to God and receive forgiveness.
Let’s be a church that does not stand in the way of the work of God. Rather, let’s be a church used by God.