Jesus, my Savior. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who left the splendor of heaven to live and suffer in human flesh in order to fulfill the Father’s plan and save souls. Pretty awe-inspiring, right? But as part of the plan, He was a dusty, smelly vagabond. No disrespect to Jesus, of course. He said it himself in Luke 9:58:
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Wandering around homeless, he was given food and drink along his way. Often, this was done by the people with whom He chose to associate. And here’s a newsflash – it wasn’t the religious folk. In fact, His people of choice usually included those considered “unsavory” by the religious ranks. They were:
Prostitutes and adulterers
Lepers and Beggars
So then, let’s just stop sanitizing Jesus please. He sought out those on the fringe, the outer reaches of society, or those in positions of contempt. The helpless, the despised, the sick – these were His people. We’re talking Outsider City here.
These people were marginalized because of their behavior or their circumstances, but Jesus sought them and He loved them. He even called them to do His work. Consider Levi the tax collector who was renamed Matthew, author of the Gospel of the same name.
You can read all about this jaw-dropping episode in Luke 5:27-32. And what a hailstorm of chatter and gossip erupted when Jesus went to Levi’s Dinner Party for Sinners. To this, Jesus replied simply:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
So again, let’s just stop sanitizing Jesus please. He’s not your Rosy-Cheeked Portrait on the Sunday School Wall Jesus. He’s a gritty Savior who avoided the religious mainstream folks. He thought of them as “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:37). They looked good on the outside but were full of darkness and decay on the inside.
Lord help me if I ever find myself to be so holy that I am wholly ineffective for Christ.
Most of His interactions with the “religious” (Pharisees and Sadducees) were skirmishes about the Law that usually included these holy folks trying to entrap Jesus or call His teachings into question. But He shut them down each time. This happened when He healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3) and when He protected a woman caught in adultery by asking her accusers to throw the first stone if they were without sin (John 8).
See, that was Jesus’ thing, seeking and saving the lost, speaking up for the defenseless. I want to be like Jesus. He is always seeking, saving, and welcoming those whom others would reject because they are too dirty, too risky, too sinful, too whatever.
I hope that means I am far enough away from some sanitized form of Christianity that I can live, love and serve like Jesus did. Lord help me if I ever find myself to be so holy that I am wholly ineffective for Christ.
Perhaps one of my favorite of Jesus’ teachings is when He is talking about the moment when He will gather the nations before Himself and bless those who have been a blessing to the helpless and hopeless. He says:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40).
I hope that means I am far enough away from some sanitized form of Christianity that I can live, love and serve like Jesus did.
The “least of these” are all around you. If you choose to look, you’ll see them. Some of them are victims of circumstance, vagabonds in their own right. Some have been self-destructive in their behavior. But that’s not your business, or mine. We are to minister life to people whether fleeing from:
The impact of unplanned pregnancy
Wounds inflicted by the “religious”
We need to stop sanitizing Jesus by being obsessed with our internal church campaigns, political affiliations, faulty rankings of worthiness, and other such fictitious barometers of human value. It’s time to purposefully discredit these man-made distractions for the rubbish they really are.
The only agenda worthy of the attention and pursuit of anyone who claims the title “Christian” is that of Christ Himself. And God is so good, since He allows account after account of Jesus’ approach to people to be lessons to us in the Bible.
There can be no misinterpretation of who Jesus was and what He was about when He walked the Earth. He went into the dark, dirty, dangerous places because He wanted all to know Him. He eschewed legalistic religiosity that did not promote love and mercy. No respecter of persons, Jesus loved everyone, as should we.
Lord Help me to love like You do. AMEN.