Monday, October 22, 2012

Pagans and Tax Collectors

In Matthew 18 Jesus lays out for us the way we should deal with sin in the church among believers.

Step 1: Take out a Facebook page detailing why you hate that person.  Oh wait, that would be my human way of taking care of the problem. Oh come on, don't act like you haven't thought about doing that very thing so everyone can share the pain inflicted on you by haters and abusers.

Step 1 (for real): "...go and point out their fault, just between the two of you." JUST BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU. Tell me, what part of "just between the two of you" do most Christians seem to not understand?

Step 2: If they do not listen, take a couple of trusted believers along with you so that there will be witnesses. Don't take the gossiping church ladies with you to do this. Take along someone who shows discernment, compassion, and who knows how to keep his or her mouth shut.

Step 3: If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church. I think this is a very misused scripture. I've known many Christians who've made some very human mistakes and were made to stand up in front of the entire congregation to confess and ask forgiveness.  People who had no idea that a sin had been committed were given information they didn't need to have.

If you really take time to study the original writings, I think you'd find that "tell it to the church" actually means a bigger group than just two or three, but NOT the whole congregation. In today's context it would be more likely that Jesus would say, Tell your small group so that more of you can pray for, love on, and encourage the one who's gone astray.

Step 4: If they don't listen to the church, treat them like a pagan or tax collector.

Hmmm....  Treat them like a pagan or tax collector. So, shun them, tell everyone you know they wronged you, and ensure their rightful place outside the church doors. Right?

But wait, what kind of relationship did Jesus have with pagans and tax collectors? Guess what - he pursued them! He had dinner with them! In Mark we read how Jesus called out Levi from the tax collector's booth and said, "Follow me". Jesus then attended a dinner party with all of Levi's friends and there he dined with, laughed with, and shared conversation with "sinners and tax collectors". 

Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector, but was the CHIEF tax collector - a really bad guy. Jesus went to his house for dinner. Read the story yourself in Luke 19.

Jesus pursued the sinners and tax collectors. He hung out with them. I promise you that if Jesus were here today, we'd see him at Starbucks having a cup of coffee with sex offenders, thieves, addicts, embezzlers, and every sinner imaginable. He'd be having coffee with me - with you!

We might be able to help reconcile one of God's prodigal kids back to the Lord over a burger, or a cup of coffee. What greater joy could there be? Why do we shun and isolate?

Get off the shunning pew and back into relationship. Get off the pew!

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