Let’s start with the most basic and foundational question we could ask ourselves about our Christian walk: “Why are you still here?” Since we have become disciples of Jesus Christ, what is His main calling for all of us while still in this fallen world? Why has He even kept us here? We could probably get as many answers as we have listeners, but there is one solid, Biblical answer—so, let’s simply allow Scriptures to answer Their own question:
Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Jesus’ last Command before His Ascension from earth was to save the lost. And then Paul clearly and powerfully reiterates this Command from God in 2 Corinthians, saying God committed us to be ambassadors of Christ, showing them HIS Works of Love and Reconciliation. An ambassador works in a foreign land, as a representative of, and for the goals of his leader. We are Christ’s ambassadors to this foreign land. So, if we are to represent and pursue the goals of Our Leader, we must listen very carefully to His own words about why He came: Luke 4:18-21. Every single purpose Jesus, came to fulfill involved touching and healing the broken, held down, trapped, wandering, misled, hurting, lost, helpless people of this world. That was—plain and simple—His entire mission in this world. So, let’s return to the original question: “Why are you still here?” To heal people with broken hearts; to help those who cannot see Him; to free those trapped and suffering in sin; to plead with the world to accept His Gift of Love. That is the primary reason you are on earth—after you and I accepted His death as our own and arose to His life willfully. Not if we feel like it, if we have time, or if I had the right personality.
Now that we have clearly established our literal “Main Purpose” for even being on this earth, let me ask you a second question—one that requires great personal honesty and reflection: “Why do the majority of Christians today ignore, get annoyed with, and totally avoid the very people we have come to love and serve in our supposed desire for holiness?” Where and when did we get the religious idea that it is our “Holy Duty” to stay as shallow and far-reached from the lost, sinful people around us as possible? Christians so often feel it is their literal obligation or goal in their “righteousness” to remain as separate and uninvolved as possible from those loose, wild, mean, blasphemous, liberal, abominable people around them as they build groups of like-minded people for security and protection. And what they end up doing is showing the face of cold, uninterested, smug, self-righteous rejection as the Face of Our Loving, Humble Ambassador. May I remind you Scriptures emphatically proclaim these people are the entire reason you are here. So, why do we shy away, avoid, and look on with disdain and even hatred? Here are a few honest reasons: 1) we fear being associated with sin in front of other “Christians” around us 2) we want to avoid such influences, because we want to be certain we remain righteous for Christ 3) we are frankly too busy caring for our families, working for the church, and making an honest living to deal with the trouble and stickiness of these warped and needy people—especially when they chose their path, and made their own mess in the first place.
We fear being associated with sin in front of other “Christians” around us. If that is your reasoning, please realize that you, and anyone you happen to offend in your connection to these “terrible sinners” are both, not only dead wrong, but adopting the same mentality of those who hated and crucified Jesus for doing the same thing. And adopting the same mentality of the one single group Jesus Himself resisted and rejected most: Matthew 23:5, 27-28 (Jesus speaking about Pharisees). Be honest, if we are more worried about our reputation than connecting with broken people, is this passage not describing us? Jesus continues this conversation by directly addressing the Pharisees, saying, “What good is outward righteousness...if the heart is not filled with the motivation of love and mercy?” It is no more than a way to feel good about oneself and look good to others. Contemplate this fact: if we are obsessed with missionary movements to foreign countries (which is wonderful, needed and Commanded...), but don't have the same burning love and drive for the broken souls living next to us every day at work and in society—we are whitewashed—looking and feeling good, but insincere—and don't even realize it. They are not a bother, they are the mission, not to be won, or sold a bill of goods as a salesman, but to be cherished and loved.
Our second reason for often avoiding extreme sinners is that "We want to avoid their sinful influences in our lives...so that we may protect our Righteousness…and be more like Jesus!" I realize the value of protecting ourselves from evil, but Jesus Himself, in His last night in the Garden before death, prayed this prayer about us: John 17:15-19. Jesus said He planned to send us out into the sinful world; not avoid or protect ourselves from them. The key was to keep ourselves sanctified by His Word as we reach out to them in their world. If our heart's motivation is to touch a broken person to save a lost soul, and not wallow in the world's ways, but stay rooted in God's love and His Word, we will be the influence and not be overcome. How do you fight a war without entering the battle zone? And if you feel that you are closer to Jesus' righteousness by avoiding the horrible sinners around you, take a closer look at His righteousness: Matthew 9:9-13. Jesus' righteousness was shown in His humble desire to go where they were and selflessly love the unlovable. He made His Life and Ministry all about them. He traveled to their homes, invited them to share meals, spoke with, associated with, loved on the most hated. He wasn't just wanting numbers or notches in His belt; He purposefully turned many away. He genuinely desired to know and touch them as precious human beings whom He loved. He was authentically interested in them and that is why He was appealing to them; why He reached them. Jesus goes on to address the Pharisees on their distaste of His association with sinners: Matthew 9:9-13. He said that mercy is more appealing to Him than sacrifice. Your heart and passion for broken people is far more righteous than how sacrificially you live or give. Righteousness is: Living and doing what is morally right. Jesus' Righteousness was proven in His Selfless drive to reach even the dirtiest sinners with real empathy and concern. Some get their self-worth with God based upon their busyness in church and home. This sacrificial work is useless—containing no righteousness at all without the motivation of love and mercy for those suffering and trapped in this world. These were not innocent victims of society. They were genuine, notorious sinners, disliked for their lifestyles. They were often selfish, self-serving, morally wrong, rebellious people, just as we face today. But Jesus also knew they were misguided, hurting, angry, scarred people who were created to be so much more. He saw the precious worth of every soul better than anyone. [As we should]. While some of us think our self-righteousness somehow makes us more valuable than a soul still lost in sin, you and I will never have the desire to help sinful, broken people until we see the unfathomable value God places on every single soul around us—and we stop putting our own grading scale of value on others based upon their outward actions and sin. Listen closely, and don’t misinterpret what is said: How can a person feel truly loved, unless they are truly embraced just as they are first; until they are shown their worth and value now? Mister Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian Minister, and one of the most authentic and loving men ever, made these powerful statements about loving others like Jesus did. See: Romans 5:6-8; John 3:17. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, says do not judge those outside the church, because they do not know Him or His Commandments. So many dark and dirty people are struggling with self-doubt, anger, hurt, confusion, and they are not bitter or mad at us, they are just bitter—with no guidelines, no direction, no hope, and they already have a feeling of rejection and unworthiness that is crushing—often resulting in the attention getting, radical ways they act out; just waiting and longing for someone to truly be interested in them; in all their mess, in all their pain, in their screwed up world. And Christians often come along, showing no real interest in their lives or pain; just trying to sell them Jesus. Jesus got into their world; showed interest in them when no one else cared (never approving of their sin, but loving them); took time to really touch them (sinners, lepers, women, children, handicapped), and it was the very first time some of them ever felt loved. Loving them in their sins is not showing approval of that sin, but approval of them. If we want to save the lost, it starts with showing the lost they are valuable and loved right where they are first. That their soul, just as they are, was worth the Blood of God Himself. That was how Jesus showed His selfless Righteousness. Not in isolating Himself from their brokenness.
The last reason many Christians honestly say why they shy away from sinners and troubled people is that they are just too busy caring for their families, working for the church, and making an honest living to deal with the trouble and stickiness of these warped and needy people—especially when they chose their path, and made their own mess in the first place. All good and true statements, but when a lawyer of Jesus' day tried to justify himself in the same thought process, Jesus responded: Luke 10:29-37: Jesus purposefully used two of the most well respected, "holy men" of His time—those who should have shown the most love (especially to a fellow Hebrew) and a Samaritan—a race with mutual hatred between them and the Hebrews—gave sacrificially of his time, supplies, physical effort and money to help someone, he should least likely have been involved with. Someone who would hate him and avoid him if they were not sick and injured; who never is seen as being thankful or paying him back. Jesus said the one that loved as He commands was the one that showed mercy in sacrificial service; even to one they had no connection with; even to one who would hate them; even when there would be no acknowledgement or reward. And then Jesus commanded, "Go and do likewise!" Loving the sinners around us often doesn't take any more time than we already have. It is simply a matter changing our hearts to genuinely, intimately care about those we already touch daily. But most importantly, if you are too busy to be the one to stop and care; to put the lost soul and broken heart of God's people above self; you and I are not sharing Jesus' Heart, Life or Righteousness, and we truly have become just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day—more focused on our lives; on feeling good about self, on looking good to others, than we are caring about those Jesus died for around us.
We wonder what our calling is. We want to do big things for Christ. Then listen to this last parable of Jesus: Luke 15:1-7
Look at the joy and celebration this one soul brings to the One for whom we are acting as Ambassador. There is no single greater thing you could do with your whole life than to heal and lead one broken soul home! how can we consider this a waste of time expended? How is this too sticky and involved to deal with? Why do we teach our children this is secondary to them and all of the pleasures of the world? Jesus said this one sheep was worth leaving everything to pursue. You and I will never be able to force ourselves to have this kind of love and worth for a sinner. It will happen when we realize that we are exactly the same as the sinners around us, only rescued from our cesspool by Someone who was willing to give all for us. And they have that same worth, right where they are. We have not become brothers and sisters in Christ to be raised above the sinners of the world. We have become brothers and sisters in Christ to come together and serve the sinners of the world. They are not somehow beneath us; they are to be placed above us. We are called to seek and save them in passion, worth and total sacrifice to selves—even in misunderstanding and hatred. Only real, sacrificial interest and care—undeserved—will ever make them feel His love; will ever show their worth. See them for the prize they are, show them, and love them as those treasures. That is the way of the Master to Whom we represent as Ambassadors. This is your calling!
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