“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Mark 2:17)
There are two prevailing philosophies in regards to how we should accept (or refuse to accept) sinners in the church. One reaction is that we simply accept people as they are with no encouragement to change. To most people, this seems the loving, tolerant, accepting thing to do. In reality, this way of dealing with sin (whether in our own lives or the lives of others) is cowardly and unloving. There is no call to leave sin, no challenge to conform to the image of Jesus. The “come-as-you-are, stay-as-you-are” philosophy might attract the masses, but it will never lead a soul to salvation in Christ. The other prevalent mindset of dealing with sinners is to refuse them until they get themselves straightened out. Sadly, this attitude is still found in the church. It smacks of arrogance, condescension, and hypocrisy. This mindset is devoid of mercy, grace, long-suffering, and forgiveness. We must remember that the church is not a social club for sinless saints, but a hospital for those who are burdened down and beaten up by sin. There has to be a better way to deal with sinners! There is a better way, and it is the way of Jesus. Our Lord was tender, compassionate, and welcoming to those who were struggling with sin. He extended mercy and grace, but never once compromised the truth in so doing. It is true that he took people as they were, but he never left anyone with the impression that they should be content to remain as they were. Jesus always taught by precept and example that we should seek to live a nobler, more purposeful life. He came to seek the sick. Truth be told, we are all sick because of sin, but the majority refuse to acknowledge this reality. How did Jesus receive you when you were at your weakest and most vulnerable? Did he put his arm around you and tell you that it was okay to continue living as you were? Did he send you away until you got all of you problems corrected? Let’s remember this the next time we encounter those outside of Jesus.
“Father, open our eyes and our hearts to those who need you. Lead us to those who are seeking you. Help us to treat sinners like Jesus does. Grant us the conviction to stand upon your truth without compromise or shame. Grant us tender hearts that have been touched by your mercy and grace. Help us lead lost souls to you. Forgive us when we are guilty of turning souls away from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”