If Jesus was walking today

It is easy to hear about the churches that focus on judging people, especially because when they do, the media loves repeating it. Churches condemning homosexuals, prostitutes, criminals, politicians, and even members of the “wrong” political spectrum. They have no idea about forgiving “low lives”, it seems far beyond their consideration.

I don’t condemn someone for being like that, it’s just the human thing to do. Suspecting those that are not “like us” is part of the survival skills developed long ago. Parents properly tell their young children “don’t talk with strangers”.

However, it is a focus that can go too far. Especially when someone is in pain, or feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I am not at my best toward others when my back flares up or my day is not going anywhere near what I was hoping for. I am still working on overcoming this tendency.

So when I need help with that I look into scripture to see what Jesus would be saying if He was walking around these days. Would He join those churches or would He look at “outsiders” differently? Let’s see.

Is Jesus Judgmental or Compassionate?

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Mark 2:16-17 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (NRSV)

Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NRSV)

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)

Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NRSV)

There are many, many more scriptures that could be added to the list:

From what we have, it looks like our “righteousness” must “exceed” that of the Pharisees, we need to beware their teachings and we should spend time with sinners.

Jesus spent a lot of His time with “sinners”. That part is easy to see, however, I now ask the question: Did He choose the Pharisees with whom He spent time because they were also sinners? I don’t know. So who were these Pharisees whom Jesus … confronted?

They were the local political/government leaders and the religious leaders of the time. To modernize their role, you could say that they were the Bishops, Mayors, Cardinals, City Council Members, Televangelists, Priests, Ministers, Reverends, and others of their day. However, I believe He was not condemning them all, just those focused on following rules. Don’t forget that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea did not focus on the rules, but on something more.

He confronted those who were focusing on trying to be “good enough”, “obedient enough” and “worthy” of God’s love and attention. They focused on behavior according to what they saw in scripture, without looking at God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, or even God’s purpose in giving those rules to His Chosen People. Because of this focus, they were convinced that they were much more “spiritual” than those who were not trying at all.

Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (ESV)

So, How Should We Represent Him?

Is someone trying to teach you to follow rules to be a “good Christian”? Is someone trying to teach you to condemn those who are not “Christians” or anyone that is not a member of your church? Do they teach you that you are better than the sinners, criminals, and atheists of the world? What about those in other religions, are you being told you are closer to God than they are? If the answer to any of those is “yes” … you may want to ask God in your next quiet time about His opinion of those “yes’s”.

Jesus never said that He came to start a new religion. Instead, He came to open the door so that YOU can walk through it and start growing closer to God. That’s what God wants.

Remember whom Jesus wanted to spend time with and that Christianity is a “relationship”, not a “religion”. Check the list of people with whom you spend time. If you want to be closer to Jesus, you may need to do what He did, and go where He went, spending time with the same kind of people. It’s not a rule, it’s about an attitude, it’s about dropping pride.

Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!
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