Today’s post is from Part 2 — Words of Caution, Chapter 2 — Love The Unlovable of my new book Love Like Jesus.
Last Saturday we posted Part 1, Chapter 1 — Imitating Jesus.
Love Like Jesus is due to be published in 2018.
Love The Unlovable
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)
Jesus And The Sinners
Jesus loved people by engaging with them, in spite of their sinful lifestyle. We see examples of this everywhere in the gospels, how Jesus loved people on the margins of society. (And we also see the corresponding disapproval of the religious leadership of Jesus’ day.)
How to Love Like Jesus
There’s a blog I follow called Not Ashamed Of The Gospel. They once posted a three-part series about a ministry which reaches out to sex industry employees. I couldn’t help but notice there weren’t many comments offered on the last post in the series, An Insider’s Look. I think people found that post just too hot to deal with. Finally, one person commented and, as best as I could tell, he used scripture to infer that this post about the sex industry ministry was an example of ungodly men perverting the grace of God. I couldn’t help myself. I had to comment.
I wrote about when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner saw the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with her hair and her tears. The Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)
“Of course Jesus knew,” I wrote in the comment box. “But He also knew those deeply ensnared in sin need Him just as much as the rest of us.”
Jesus loved people by engaging sinners.
And you should too.
What Doesn’t Matter
It doesn’t matter if they sin differently than you do.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t approve of their lifestyle.
It doesn’t matter if she’s promiscuous.
It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t provide for his family, and you think he’s lazy.
It doesn’t matter if she’s prideful.
It doesn’t matter if he’s addicted to porn, or drugs, or booze.
What Does Matter
In this book, you’ll read about many instances when Jesus was investing in relationships with sinners. And to love like Jesus, you and I need to do the same. But before we move forward there’s an important point to address: the direction of the flow of influence. Which way that influence flows is something that matters when we invest in people.
Of course, Jesus didn’t have to consider which way influence flowed, because in his case, it only flowed one way.
However, you and I are not the Christ. (see John 1:20)
I could never involve myself in a ministry to sex industry employees. Because the potential is too great for the influence to flow from the people and environment I’d be involved in, over to me. I think most men rightly see it that way. All of the people involved in the front lines of the sex industry ministry featured at Not Ashamed Of The Gospel were women, many of whom are former sex industry employees themselves. They were ministering to other women.
You and I have to carefully and prayerfully consider this issue of direction of influence. At any time, if you sense the flow is from the people you’re trying to love like Jesus, over to you, it’s time to end it.
With few exceptions, men shouldn’t be ministering to women, and women shouldn’t be ministering to men. Someone with a drinking problem shouldn’t be ministering in a bar.
That being the case, I have to ask myself, “How often have I avoided influencing someone for Jesus Christ, simply because they sinned differently than I sin?” The answer is, too many times.
The truth is, disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle isn’t a reason to avoid showing that person Christ’s love. If you know you’re on solid ground in terms of the direction of influence, love that person with your time.
You and I must too because,
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
-Jesus Christ (Mark 2:17)
Peter Guirguis, “Club Sin: Interview With Tara Ulrich Gives You an Insider’s Look at Christian Outreaches to Sex Industry Employees“, NotAshamedOfTheGospel.com, 9/25/2012
Image via Fergal of Claddagh, Creative Commons