Monday, June 15, 2009


Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)

I don’t even know how to approach writing a blog on this passage. I have lots of ideas and illustrations but every one of them seems to be condemning and judgmental. I know of a church by personal experience (I was there) that illustrates what I would like to say. It was in the mid-60s in Southern California and the Jesus People were having a huge impact among the hippies. One Sunday morning a group of Jesus People showed up at this church with quite a few hippies. It was their intention to attend the morning service and bring their hippy friends to church with them. Many of them were barefoot. None were dressed in “church clothes.” Some were dirty. Most were long-haired and bearded (at least the men!). Are you getting the picture? They were denied entrance to this church on the grounds that they were barefoot and dirty.

What about churches that hesitate to bring in other ethnic groups? They have a different culture. They tend to be in gangs. Their girls often get pregnant in high school. Should we allow them to be around our youth? If they started coming in larger numbers then our whole church would be fundamentally changed and we like it just the way it is! (Yes, I have a number of illustrations of situations like this as well!)

What about poor people? What about people who have drinking problems or drug problems? What about gay people? What about people who have been in trouble with the law or who have been in prison? If you get very many of these people in your church things will be really different and your church will dramatically change. You would have to make big adjustments in your programs and ministries because such people bring all kinds of problems with them. You would have to find a way to actually deal with these people!

And THEN your church would be the kind of church Jesus would feel comfortable attending.

He came to heal the sick, not babysit the healthy!


At 12:10 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

No comments yet? Well, I'll toss some ideas in and see what happens.

On the one hand, I am a little skeptical when I see homogeneous Ken and Barbie churches that are embedded in culturally diverse communities. Except for language issues, if the congregation does not look like the people at the local grocery store, it makes me wonder why.

On the other hand, Sunday morning is not primarily an outreach hour. The church is the body of Christ, and "going to church" is the assembling of the local believers for corporate worship and for the equipping of the saints. I go expecting my pastor to speak forth from the Holy Scriptures, not Newsweek or People magazine. It is more than okay; it is good that something about church is different from popular culture. We are called to be set apart. I'm not talking polyester suits and patent leather shoes... more like living the beatitudes. Does that make sense?

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


Thanks for stopping by so often. I love exchanging thoughts with you!

The bottom line first: I couldn't agree with you more! You're 100% right in both paragraphs.

Our Sunday morning gatherings ARE for the saints and the joining together for corporate worship. What I'm talking about IS the living out of the Beatitudes and BEING the body of Christ DURING THE WEEK! If we, the body of Christ, do the work of Christ during the week, then our Sunday morning gatherings should look like the people in our local market! The people who we bring in on Sundays may not yet be believers and we should not change what we do for worship in order to make them more comfortable, but the Holy Spirit will use our worship to testify to the truth of the gospel in their lives.

My problem is with churches filled with people who DON'T reach out to their neighbors in their communities because of judgmental attitudes and self-righteous superiority. They may be very happy to invite folks to church who are "just like them" but make no effort to reach out to and stoop to touch those who are obviously sick and sorrowing.

Please follow up...

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

It reminds me of the lesson on how to love your neighbor (the good Samaritan). It is easy to notice your neighbor if you're birds of a feather. And it is indeed good if I am a middle-aged, hispanic male to invite another middle-aged hispanic male to church. I just might be the most appropriate person to answer any questions he might have about things, and theoretically, he could find it easier to relate to me than to another. But God often brings "different" folks across our paths.

Many would be willing to say that they do not play favorites with people, but in order to break that barrier down, we need to do more than not hate someone because they're of a different socioeconomic or ethnic status. We need to be intentional about building a bridge to all our neighbors every day. It could start with prayer: "Lord, open my eyes to those you bring in my life today, and help me to glorify You in those relationships."

Hopefully then, we will see people with a different lens and know that the person who likes different music or maybe smells bad or whatever... that person might be someone who our Father elected and Jesus died for. That could be a person who we will spend the rest of eternity with, and wouldn't it be nice to get a head start on heaven right here and now?

Maybe that's a good place to start.

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous gregory said...

What's more...regardless of the "flavor and socio-ethnic" make up of said congregation, vital intimate relationship building seems to be mostly absent.

Jesus was eating, drinking, teaching, most likely laughing heartily as well, amongst these castoffs.

In many cultures "breaking bread" is tantamount to sacred space. Next to physical affection, it is one of the most intimate experiences you share with another. Surely Levi and the others knew this. It must have been awe inspiring to them. You refresh each other with food, beverage, conversation, and peace. In a sense you love each other deeply, genuinely. In fact it is SHAMEFUL if the host does not offer the BEST of whatever he/she has. And you reciprocate... willingly and lovingly.

So if we practice the pursuit of Godly excellence in ALL we do, I cannot help but envision a mosaic of people within the church.

Loving each other deeply, genuinely. With the God of all creation present.


At 11:15 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


I gues the picture I have in mind is one of "sinful people" showing up at church and receiving the Christian "cold shoulder" instead of being welcomed and loved into the community of believers. I understand that the only people we can really reach out to are the people whom God places in our path on a daily basis. But if we are doing that, then it seems inevitable to me that some people will appear at our church door and need to be loved with the love of Jesus instead of made to feel unwelcome. I love the way you work these things out. Thanks for being here!

At 11:19 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


WOW! What an excellent insight into the passage! You make me think about the connection between sharing the love of God in the gospel and the principle of hospitality! You're so right! Jesus and all those "sinners" would have been very well aware that they were demonstrating love through hospitality and the reception of the same! Now, can we demonstrate that same hospitality to people who some churches would not want around their families?

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great points by all involved. I enjoyed reading the blog and then the comments to follow. Gregory had some good insights. In the middle eastern culture inviting someone to share a meal was to invite them to be a part of your family and isn't that what Jesus was doing! What a beautiful picture of love and acceptance.
Amy Bloemhof


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