My wife (Pam) and I have some dear Christian friends who definitely don’t fit the mold of most of Christians. If you are like me, I have a tendency to associate with like-minded people…believers in Jesus Christ, conservative living, church going folks. I have very few “worldly friends.” If I am honest, I don’t like associating with others who make me feel uncomfortable. Our aforementioned friends are quite different. Their backyard (pool, outdoor kitchen, comfortable lounging furniture) is open to their whole neighborhood. Periodically, when we attend one of their many parties, we discover an eclectic neighborhood who are all welcome…gays, scoffers, multi-ethnic, folks from different walks of life, people with problems that are often discussed around the pool in very worldly ways. These folks know that our friends are Christians; yet, when it is a holiday, special event, our friends are contacted by their neighborhood to see “what we are going to do.” When I am in attendance, I cautiously find a comfortable place to sit occasionally striking up a safe conversation while I observe my friends and my wife work through the crowd accepting yet straightforward about their faith.
You know what? Reading scripture, I realize that I am a hypocrite:
Matthew 5 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Matthew 9 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
In Matthew 5:46, notice that it states, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Let’s think about the obvious in this verse. Heavenly rewards are issued to those who love the “unlovely”…those who are different, who are needy, who society may look down on, who are considered immoral by conservative churches. Matthew was a tax collector. Jews hated the tax collectors and refused to associate with them. Yet, not only did Jesus call Matthew to follow Him, He immediately befriended him and his buddies.
Jesus came for the tax collectors and sinners. He came not to call those who think they are righteous, but sinners; not “the healthy” who do not need a doctor, but the sick. Jesus desires mercy (Accepting one another, as He accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7) not some religious practice. God wants us to act like Jesus in real terms to the world.
“God, I am asking you to change me. That I will not behave like a Pharisee. Get me out of the salt-shaker (the friendly confines of the suburban mostly white church) to be salt to the world.”
If you are like me, why don’t you pray the same prayer that I prayed above.