Last week at my bible study I covered the following verse. Oddly enough, my Pastor also covered the same verse on Sunday.
The Calling of Matthew
9As 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.
10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The scripture discusses two narratives that are still parts of peoples lives today. One is the narrative of religious performance (sacrifice or moralism) that eventually leads to the white glove approach to doing Church, In other words … I am wearing these white holy gloves and I dont want to get my hands dirty on those sinners… especially the very dirty sinners. This type of isolation was never a part of Jesus ministry. The other narrarative of mercy and grace and love for hurting people is the one Jesus says we NEED to be a part of. When Jesus spent time with sinners it seemed like quite a conspiracy to the religious, keepers of biblical truth, not as bad as everyone else pharisees.
I was eating lunch one day and sat beside a number of Church going men (maybe accountability buddies) that were sitting close enough to me to hear most of their conversation. They had a good conversation. Nothing I would disagree with individually They had what I consider to be a typical conversation for these types of meetings and the conversation turned to politics and how bad the world is. I did not disagree with anything being said whatsoever but I do consider this type of conversation o be pretty typical where we start to critique the world at large. I realize in the entirety of the conversation I overheard there was not one thing I would disagree with. I was, however, concerned with the general focus of the conversation…. or the centrality of the conversation. Thats why for me the centrality of the Gospel needs to be internalized to me more than externalized. As I read across several BLOGS and contempalete the conversation I overheard I asked myself why does the conversation always turn external in these conversations. I realize no matter how much scripture we understand there is a large gap between what we know and what do. Here are my theories why this occurs and why we externalize it instead of internalizing it:
1. By externallizing everything it takes the focus off of me and my sins.
2. We just feel better about ourselves when we criticize others or externallize everything and feed from the tree if knowledge of good and evil.
3. We are afraid of real intimacy and showing people our real selves and we prefer easy intimacy as opposed to real intimacy with people and God.
4. We just like to use the path of least resistance with other people so by externallizing we don’t get our hands dirty with our own issues.
5. As a general rule, people live in fear and dont want to show their true “dirty” sides. And if we do attempt to show our sin its a vague, religiously correct, “Yes, I am a sinner too” kind of thing.
As I reflect on what Paul means when he says that in our weaknesses we find strength I believe that getting “real” about our sin, fears, concerns, etc is the pathway to intimacy with Christ and each other. Paual actually says that we find the power of Christ as we acknowledge our weaknesses. Of course, if we cant acknowledge our weaknesses, we cant repent of them either. As I type this and reflect on my marriage relationship I realize I have been kinda floating relationally with Sue for a while. This seperation from intimate closeness with my wife (not just physical intimacy) has caused me to be short tempered and emotionally tired. A good word is its making me wrestless. I need to have a heart to heart with my wife soon and we need to get “real” with each other. After being sick the last few weeks I need to fight for the close intimacy with my wife that, I believe, was designed by God for me to have. To talk about our fears and concerns and to regain the pathway of deep intimacy and being “real” with each other.
Churches can either be sanctuaries for saints or they can be hospitals for sinners as described in the verse above. The aroma of legalism a Church gives off can be easily sensed by hurting people that are struggling. We need to have the aroma of mercy oozing out of the pores of our Churches. A mercy that comes from a central focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose of his death and resurrection on the Cross. Churches need to be able to clearly explain that the Gospel message basically means two things:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope
As I reflect on the scripture in Matthew 9 I want to bring back a general rule of thumb I try to live by…..I have a 90/10 principal that I try to keep in balance in my life. The rule stated is this: I try to see scripture 90% of the time as internal to me and 10% of it applicable to the world out there. This is so I dont spent time comparing myself to other Christians. I also like to talk to Christians that seem to have this same rule. In other words I want to internalize scripture as much as I can. My fear is if I invert 90/10 to 10/90 then I will start labelling other Christians, place myself over them, and start developing a sense of superiority …. and I have seen an extreme exaample of this in some of my closest friends causing a notable life-altering story that I will only share with my closest cell group friends. This life-altering experience is probably my main reason for having the 90/10 rule in my life to serve as a guide.
However, having said that I have a form of grace-legalism that I struggle with due to this life-altering thing that happened to me. I tend to have an unloving heart toward people that are acting in unloving ways [or unloving pharisees]. I also distrust people who lead with truth and obedience without first getting real about their own sin as they tend to so easily point out the sin in others and look down on all other people as they develop a sense of superiority in being in the truth.
This is something I sincerely need to work on.