(Let me just say right off the top, this is for me as much as (or more than) it is for anyone else.) From Matt Bowen’s excellent teaching: 05/22/2016, Sheep and Coins, Luke 15:1-10.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.'” (Luke 15:1-2)
Who’s drawing near to Jesus?
“Who’s drawing near to Jesus?” That question causes me to take pause, and to ask, “Who’s drawing near to me?” It’s a good question to ask because if sinners are attracted to me as they are to Jesus, then I’m more conformed to his likeness. But if sinners avoid me…
Here are two different approaches to relationships that explain the why behind what kind of people are attracted to you, and to me.
How Many Evangelicals Do Relationships
Many of us who identify as evangelical Christians have unconsciously fallen into a pattern of approaching relationships that goes something like this.
First comes the foundation. And the foundation of our relationships is: Agreement. “Will you agree with me, and will you perform in a way that I deem acceptable?” (Although we seem to be more about agreement than performance.) “So as long as you agree with me: If you agree with me about theology, about how to raise kids, about how loud the drums should be in church–only then can I have a relationship with you.” So that’s the foundation.
Then comes respect. If I agree with you and you agree with me, then I can respect you.
Then comes acceptance. “If I can respect you, then I will finally accept you. And what I will do is, I will begin a relationship with you that maintains our agreements. But if someone stops doing that [if someone stops agreeing] I’m out.”
How Jesus Does Relationships
But we see from our passage how differently Jesus does relationships.
First comes the foundation, and the foundation for Jesus is: Jesus accepts people where they are. (Romans 5:8)
Then he respects them–as people made in God’s image.
Then he looks for points of contact, points of agreement. They dine together, Jesus and sinners. “And as they do, they have space to hear him, but the hearing comes after they experience the grace of his fellowship. Only in his unearned acceptance of them, can they begin to truly hear how their lives can be different and be remade in his kingdom. The ones who hear will be rescued.”
Do you see the way Jesus does relationships? It’s counter to the way so many of us do it. We tend to want relationships built primarily on a foundation of agreement. Our respect and acceptance for someone is based on it.
But Jesus gives acceptance first, then respect, then he looks for opportunity to dine–and to agree. And ultimately, to share truth.
It’s my hope and my prayer that I can be more like Jesus, in all things, but especially in the way I approach relationships.
“Father, I pray You will do whatever You know to be best to conform us to the likeness of Your Son Jesus. Send Your Holy Spirit to inspire us in our relationships. Send Your Holy Spirit to inspire us to approach people, and to love people, just as Jesus did. In Jesus’ name.”
Jesus’ Parable Of The Lost Sheep
In response to the Pharisee’s grumbling, Jesus told them this parable.
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? and when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3-7)
From Matt Bowen’s excellent teaching at Cedar Mill Bible Church: 05/22/2016, Sheep and Coins, Luke 15:1-10
You might also like Love Like Jesus–Love the Unlovable.
An Important Qualifying Statement
All of this is in the context of influence. I’ve written about it before, someone who struggles with alcoholism would be wise not to “dine with sinners” in bars. And men would be wise not to involve themselves directly in ministry to sex trade victims. We should go where the influence flows from Jesus’ Spirit, through us, to others. If the influence is flowing the other way, we can quickly find ourselves drifting toward a destructive destination. (See Love Like Jesus–Love the Unlovable)