The doctor asked his patient, you seem well. All your vital signs check out good. There is no evidence from all the tests we performed on you that indicate any problems. But you say that you are feeling not yourself and something just isn’t right with you? Well, in my opinion, you are a very healthy man and certainly are not sick physically. Why did you come to me, your doctor? Maybe I am the wrong doctor you require?
Outwardly and physically this man appears to be in great shape. What could it be that’s bothering him? Financially he has no worries in life. He has a great job and in fact it is a very important position with a large and successful national company. He is so successful, that he just was extended a raise along with a promotion. He sits on many boards of banks and companies. He even heads a few committees at his church. He attends his church regularly and is always there whenever needed, giving of his time and money. What could be bothering him so that he feels physically unwell when his doctor says he is fine? He knows all the right people and is in all the right circles.
Well, you see, the pastor and a newly formed outreach committee is really promoting the church as one that welcomes everyone! It’s not just a slogan that sounds good, but everyone is really welcome, no matter what walk of life or journey they may be on. The door is open to everyone. Even those that appear to be undesirable. Beggars, folks that live on the street, divorcees, alcoholics, recently released incarcerated people, even those that are not from America! He’s having a very hard time accepting this. Why do we have to associate with these folks he thinks. Isn’t it enough that we give them money, provide them food and facilities?
The doctor he needs is Jesus. As Jesus said in our scripture passage from this past Sunday (Matthew 9:10-13), “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick, For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He is quoting from here from Hosea 6:6 and calling the Pharisees out with a very convicting statement. They were supposed to know what this means, and he tells them to “go and learn what it means.” What does this mean exactly? Jesus is saying you are to have a forgiving spirit more than legal demands or religious rites. He is after a change in your heart, not for you to just participate in sacrifices of your time and money. He wants to show mercy the way God shows mercy. God shows us undeserved mercy and we are to show that same mercy to others. It is not to just help someone with money if they need it to pay bills or eat. It is not to volunteer to help in a charitable cause, such as in a soup kitchen. These he desires for us to do of course, but it is going one step further beyond your sacrifices. It is to show mercy as he showed mercy. It is to develop relationships of love and care for those you are sacrificing for. Love instead of religion. Mercy instead of sacrifice.
This is what we as a church are being called to do, to be a doctor to the sick, a hospital welcoming in those in need of healing, not a people of righteous indignation. We as a church are also called to seek of those in need of healing just as Jesus was doing. Just as the physician does not wait until the sick are well before going to them, Jesus did not wait for bad people to become good before ministering to them. Jesus showed there are no walls to separate us between us in the kingdom of God. We are to be inclusive, not exclusive. As Christian author Myron Ausburger wrote “we cannot win sinners to the Lord if we keep ourselves aloof from them.”
This will probably involve you having contact with people that at times may make you uncomfortable. This may require you to spend time with those that the world does not esteem highly. This may even involve you doing some things that the religious elites will frown upon. However, you can be encouraged that when you seek out sinners and bring them to Jesus, you are not only obeying Jesus, but you are modeling Jesus’ own behavior. From what I have witnessed at Crabtree Valley Baptist Church in the short time I have been here, I am godly proud and joy filled to say that we practice love instead of religion. Mercy instead of sacrifice.
Blessings, Rev. Tim Pearce