Posted by: the warrioress | November 30, 2011

Jesus Christ & the Sinner

It’s easy to become pious, self-righteous, and legalistic as a Christian, but it’s clear that God doesn’t want our pride involved in the life we lead. Jesus Christ expects us to stay humble and teachable. While we are to judge others in love and to correct and rebuke in love, we’re also to judge righteously, and not from a place of hypocrisy. This is made clear within the bible when we’re told to pluck the beam out of our own eyes instead of focusing upon the splinter within our brother’s.

 Jesus truly loved sinners and those who find it hard to be good. He wasn’t judgmental and condemning, as a rule. Certainly He could be harsh at times, but primarily Jesus loved others unconditionally, and was willing to forgive and wipe the slate clean of those who were obviously less than snowy white.

 As Christians, do we really love those who are still caught up in sin, who are leading lives full of acts that we are warned not to engage in? Do we look down at or sneer at those who are homosexual or transgender? Do we think ourselves better than they are? Do we study those who are caught up in alcoholism and drug abuse with disdain or disgust? What about the poor, the homeless, the panhandlers? How about the people who are struggling to make ends meet, who are dependent upon government food stamps for their next meal? Do we really care and love everyone, who may be a part of Christ’s flock of wayward, lost sheep? Even the difficult to love and the unlovable?

The following reading was eye-opening in this respect, and I hope it offers you a lot to think about as a Christian in our political climate today in America and within the world.

Tax Collectors and Sinners

by Jirair S. Tashjian

The Pharisees complained that Jesus went to dinner parties with tax collectors and sinners. But who were these people? How did they fit in the world of their time?

Sociologists assign people to upper, middle, and lower classes. In industrialized nations, the middle class is relatively large. In Palestine in the time of Jesus, what we know as middle class was rather small. It was made up of professional people such as shopkeepers, tradesmen, fishermen, and educated people such as the Pharisees and scribes. Being a carpenter, Jesus most likely belonged to this class.

Even smaller than the middle class was the upper class. This class included the very wealthy such as the aristocratic families of the Herods, the high priests, and the rich nobility that owned most of the land.

The majority of the people in Palestine belonged to the lower class, known as the poor. All sorts of people belonged to this class, such as orphans and widows, the blind, the crippled, and the mentally ill. Having no other means of livelihood, people with physical and mental handicaps became beggars. To this class also belonged outcasts. One can be an outcast without necessarily being poor economically. Such were tax collectors and sinners.

The tax collectors were Jews who collected taxes from fellow Jews for the Roman Empire. They made their living by charging an extra amount. Some of them made more than a living. They exacted any amount they could and thus became well to do. They were considered traitors who became wealthy by collaborating with Roman authorities at the expense of their own people.

The sinners who are grouped with the tax collectors were not ordinary sinners. The Pharisees along with others could readily admit that everyone is, after all, a sinner and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. But the sinners associated with tax collectors were in a special class. These were people who deliberately and persistently transgressed the requirements of the law. Included in this group would be money-lenders who charged interest on loans advanced to fellow Jews. This was a clear violation of the law of God stated in Leviticus 25:36-38.

Also in this group of sinners might be prostitutes who made their living by their ill-gotten gains. These were individuals who sold themselves to a life of sin in deliberate disregard of the law of God.

Yet, Jesus apparently associated with such people at dinner parties. The Pharisees charged that Jesus was “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Even though Jesus belonged to the middle class, he reached out to people of the lower class. On one occasion Jesus said to some religious leaders in Jerusalem, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).

It’s not hard to see why the Pharisees and others were upset that Jesus had table fellowship with people who were morally questionable. These individuals were profiting by disobeying the command of God and betraying their own people. They were what the Old Testament calls the wicked, unworthy to be part of the people of God.

Now, if Jesus had fellowship with tax collectors and sinners in order to preach to them, the Pharisees would not have fussed. After all, who would have objected that tax collectors and sinners were forsaking their sinful lifestyle, making restitution, and seeking a life of righteousness? The Pharisees believed that God offered forgiveness when sinners repented. They could even rejoice that a wretched sinner saw the light and was converted from a life of debauchery.

But what infuriated the Pharisees was that Jesus was not explicitly or directly asking tax collectors and sinners to do any of this. Some of them no doubt did repent, such as Levi (Luke 5:28). But Jesus seems to have accepted them as they were and was freely having dinner with them without requiring that they first clean up their lives.

Of course, Jesus did have a message to proclaim to them. But his message was not, “Straighten up your life and keep the law.” Rather, his message was, “The kingdom of God is yours; you are included.” By eating with them, he was extending to them the kingdom of God.

When we read about the protest of the Pharisees, we are quick to condemn them and to side with Jesus. But if Jesus were physically present in our world today, would we as church people be comfortable if he spent his time with cheats and swindlers, sexually deviant individuals, gays and lesbians? Would we not be infuriated if he constantly went to their dinner parties and didn’t come to ours?

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the like, Fireball!

    I suspect that there would be Christians who would not approve of Jesus’ relations with the various sinners; these Christians might respond with disapproval and awe. I observe judgmental, almost angry Christians, who are condemning the lesbian, gay, transgendered among us and others who are less fortunate, or are not of their religious right political perspective. I hope we can all begin to move beyond these petty insistences and become more like Jesus wanted us to be, myself included.

    Jesus loved everyone and freely accepted people before dealing with issues of sin in their lives, as we should.

  2. “Of course, Jesus did have a message to proclaim to them. But his message was not, “Straighten up your life and keep the law.” Rather, his message was, “The kingdom of God is yours; you are included.””

    Is there any scriptural evidence to back this up? I don’t recall any passages relating the words Jesus spoke at these dinner parties. And it seems at odds with the Sermon on the Mount, as given in Matthew. There, Jesus exhorts the people to follow the law to the smallest letter, and he sets even higher standards than the law when it comes to things like murder and adultery. I think he really did expect people to straighten up their lives and keep the law.

  3. Very important question & commentary, Kpharri. I hope you don’t mind that I decided to answer you by making another blog, (part two), that will address what you’ve asked. I feel that your question and commentary are so important that they demand another blog on this topic, a part two. Please see the following:

    https://lifeofafemalebiblewarrior.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/jesus-the-sinner-ii/

    And thank you so much for caring enough to question and offer your thoughts on this topic. Through your doing this, I’m learning so much and it has expanded the study on how Jesus treated the sinner.

  4. Amen! Warrioress, I really appreciate this post. If we are truly to shine for Jesus, we must love as He loved. Jesus came for sinners. We are all sinners. We hate the sin but love the sinner. If we hate others, we are NOT walking in love and are still in darkness (as John talks about in his 1st letter). People are trapped in sin and darkness. We must pray for them. We must love them. We must allow Jesus to compel us by His love, leading us to the lost sheep. Thank you, again, for this post. This is a very important message. I see some of the church starting to really judge and condemn the lost instead of reach out a helping hand in love.

    Lord Jesus, help us to do this – to reach out in love! Live in us. Love through us. Reign over us. Let your will be done and your kingdom come. Refine and purify your church. Take out everything in us that causes us to judge and hate instead of love. In your mighty name – Amen.

  5. […] Jesus Christ & the Sinner (lifeofafemalebiblewarrior.wordpress.com) […]

  6. […] Jesus Christ & the Sinner (lifeofafemalebiblewarrior.wordpress.com) […]

  7. You serve our Papi, GOD well. You are a good and faithful servant. It has taken me a while, but I have learned to LOVE the sinner while not loving the sin.

  8. Ernie! This means a lot coming from you. I hope your Easter Weekend is so blessed and that you are happy and at peace. May you spend it with those who love you… Adrienne (many hugs, brother)

  9. You humbly give GOD the Glory like a true servant of Jesus the Christ.

  10. Jesus has changed me and I feel like a completely new person..he has really been good with me even though I was living a life of sins..my heart and soul praise jesus now and its the best feeling ever. In my past life I used to engage in homosexual acts and still jesus came to my life and invited me into his light..I gave up on drugs , alchohol and ciggarates all for jesus and to my suprise was not hard at all now homosexuality is an addiction I gave up on also but I fight against thoughts..its very hard to live a lfe walking on the right path with people judging you on what you sound or look..in my case I guessmits my voice and I can feel sme of my brothers in church look and wonder and thasnpainful because everyday I fight against what is not right and I have a good relationship with jesus but I sencenthey think the opposite… I beleave its your actions what make you what you are not looks …I can say I am a warrior that is in constnt battles with the devil and. Try to pass all test god ha for me because they make me wiser..I love you jesus andtthank you.. THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO PLEASE GOD, DONT GIVE UP SEARCHING FOR THEM..

  11. You are truly a woman after GOD’s own heart.

  12. Thank you, Ernie, and you’re certainly the same as a man. (big hugs)

  13. I think most people struggle with being judgemental. I was made aware the other day that one of my grandkids was thinking that I was judgemental about a guy I saw on TV that had tatoos all over his head. He was hard to look at, but had a great voice. In fact, I said I would buy his music, but what my grandson heard was that I was being judgemental about his tatoos. I have to admit, I don’t understand anyone inking their bodies, but I was not judging this guy for it, I simply said I had a hard time looking at him because of it.

    My point is, I am judgemental about things and people from time to time, but I have tried to take a serious look at myself in the mirror and realize that it is by the grace of God that I am not homeless, strung out on drugs or alcohol, or dead. I have made so many mistakes in life I can’t even begin to count them all. I think that is why I have a tender heart now. I have been broken numerous times, and each time God has been gracious and merciful…loving me and restoring me.

    I know that if He can do that for me as messed up as I have been, He can do that for anyone, so I try to look at others through His eyes….even the guy with the tatooed head…and love them for who they are, not for what they look like or what they do. It is a journey for all of us to remain humble and keep the beam out of our own eye. That gives a whole new meaning to telling someone that “I am just beaming.” LOL.

    Shalom!

    Dan Skognes
    http://www.danskognes.com

  14. Dan, thanks so much for sharing that wonderful testimony with me and the various readers here. God bless you, Dan, and please return and comment again in the future; I appreciate you reading.

  15. Adrienne, you words always lift, heal and inspire! I find such delight in embracing them. May God continue to bless you always! Hugs and blessings my sister!

  16. Beautiful message dear sister! I am reminded in my mind when the thief was on the cross beside Jesus, He asked him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, and Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He never put an outward restriction on him. He just gave Him, His gift of love, and promise of a blessed eternity. I often wondered what those around who mocked Him thought when they heard those words of life, of forgiveness! I love you my sister for what you always share daily, as it is ever full of such spiritual nourishment. May your radiant selflessness never diminish and may your new week be abundantly blessed! Hugs and blessings!

  17. This is exactly the perspective from which I write. Glad to know there’s another “warrior” out there trying to spread Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness!

  18. Philippians 2:3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

    Psalm 25:9 He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.

    James 4:6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

    James 4:7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

    James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

    A few words for our LORD to encourage you. I look forward to a fish and bread lunch with you in heaven.


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