Case in point, Luke 7:36-50, the prostitute crashing a party for Pharisees. When you’re on the outside and it’s really cold, you’ll do almost anything to get warm. When you’re sinful, dirty, down and marginalized, you’ll do almost anything to stop the pain. A lot of sin isn’t evil. It’s need. And Jesus died for need too.
I suspect that almost everybody—no matter how smart, beautiful, acceptable and wonderful they are—has experienced rejection and shame, and been demeaned and marginalized.
If you have ever felt that way, don’t forget how it felt because you can be God’s instrument in including the excluded. And only somebody who is excluded and shamed can help somebody else who is excluded and shamed.
How can we include the excluded? Let’s look at Jesus...the ultimate model for including the excluded.
You have to go to some weird places.
Jesus, who called Pharisees hypocrites, a den of vipers and whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23), is at a dinner party for Pharisees. Jesus is at the table sharing a meal with the self-righteous, condemning, judgmental Pharisees.
My friend Reggie Kidd’s son, Charlie, was into hard rock and took up the electric guitar. One of the bands he was into played at a club here. While Reggie didn’t like the music, he loved his son, and asked Charlie if he could go with him to hear them. It was fairly obvious that he didn’t belong, but Reggie tried his best to look like he was having a good time. A young woman with black fingernails, rings in funny places and purple hair came up to Charlie and asked him who was with him. Charlie laughed and said, “That’s my dad.” She turned to Reggie and said, “You are one bad a$& dad!”
When was the last time you felt uncomfortable?
Those who feel excluded from the church won’t set foot in our door. That means we, like Jesus, have to go where they are.
You have to break some rules and shatter some traditions.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner’” (Luke 7:39).
In other words, it was forbidden for a Jew to even touch a prostitute.
This is the principle: Live your life with such freedom that uptight Christians will doubt your salvation. Jesus did...and I suppose we can too.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus said over and over again, “You have heard it said to those of old...but I say to you...”
Jesus is still saying that.
“You have heard it said to those of old that there are people who are unacceptable and it’s not proper to hang out with them...but I say to you that if you don’t, they’ll never hear about me.”
“You have heard it said to those of old that Christians should only eat Christians cookies, read Christian books and go to Christian movies...but I say to you that unless you stop that, they’ll never know about me.”
“You have heard it said to those of old that some people are just improper, offensive and unworthy of being saved...but I say to you that unless you go to them, they’ll never know about me and my love.”
You have to set aside some agendas.
“‘Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little’” (Luke 7:47).
What Jesus didn’t do here is scandalous. Jesus didn’t tell the prostitute that she should “go and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t send her to a good synagogue, put her in a discipleship group or teach her Scripture. He simply told the prostitute that she was forgiven. The prostitute didn’t have an agenda. Neither did Jesus.
Gigi Graham, Billy Graham’s daughter, once told me that she had given up trying to fix people because she wasn’t very successful at it anyway. She said, “I’ve decided just to love people and let God worry about the rest.” I must have looked at her puzzled because then Gigi said, “And I asked my father about that and he said I was right.”
I don’t know where we got the idea that we are the world’s mother and I’m more guilty of that than most. I have a bunch of political, social, moral and religious agendas...and I think they’re right and good. But when I bring those agendas to the table, the excluded run in the opposite direction. We’ll never become friends. And worse than that, they’ll never meet Jesus whose agendas are quite different from our own. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
You have to get out of the way and watch what God does.
Let me show you something new. Simon the Pharisee became a Christian.
Luke wrote that Simon thought—but did not say—that if Jesus were a prophet, he would have known that the woman was a prostitute. But then Jesus answered Simon’s thoughts, not his words. “And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher’” (Luke 7:39-40).
I don’t know where we got the idea that we are the world’s mother and I’m more guilty of that than most.
How did Luke find out about that? Jesus obviously doesn’t go around revealing what we think to others. I would suggest that the only way Luke could have gotten that was from Simon himself...and the only reason Simon would have said it was because it was a part of his testimony, his witness. He would say, “Let me tell you about Jesus. One time he read my thoughts and then he taught me about grace.”
A Christian is simply someone who has been loved and forgiven by Jesus. So how do we include the excluded? Let Jesus love you when you’re marginalized, when you’ve sinned and think that he’s through with you, when you struggle with doubts, when you’re lonely and afraid. Let Jesus love you when you question your very salvation. Once you’ve been sufficiently loved, go to some weird places, break some rules, and set aside some agendas...then get out of the way and watch what God does.
God will do some amazing things. He always does.
I’ve always felt on the outside looking in...
They were playing sandlot baseball and choosing teams. Everybody was picked and they were ready to play. I was left out...like always. Each time I would grin (actually sneer) and say that I didn’t care. But I did. It broke my heart.
But one day the team captain, one of the “cool guys,” noticed me. Maybe he just felt sorry for me. I don’t know. Just like all the other times, I expected to be ignored. But to my surprise he looked my way and said, “I want you.” I turned around, sure that he was talking to someone else. “Me?” I asked. “Yeah, you,” the team captain said, smiling. “What’s your name?”
I played baseball that day. I played hard and well...not in order to be chosen, but because I was already chosen.
Jesus did that for me too. He included me and I’ve never been the same.
Read more from Steve Brown here