My first thought using this title was,
"Who is going to read this that has had a meal with me lately?"
But that isn't the point I will be making to call out friends and family members or even myself - though we are all sinners. :) Instead I want to point out an issue more broad that I would have liked to comment on someone's ranting YouTube post. Responding to him directly most likely would not have had any affect on his convictions or have any chance of a civil discourse.
Recently a well known and up and coming Christian music artist Lauren Daigle toured on the Ellen Show. She sang a song from her latest album called "Rise Up!" She was soulful and vulnerable and filled with joy as she worshiped freely in her short one song segment. The YouTube-er that ranted was criticizing and even judging Lauren's faith based on her appearance on the show. He had several judgements regarding first Ellen's reputation, then how could Lauren dress in the attire she was wearing and how could she ever be a Christian and be on this show!
This response is an attitude that I see growing and becoming more pervasive among Christian's, especially on social media and the internet. Perhaps it's because this is a political season? We all vote on Tuesday. Or maybe there is something going on in our churches where "us Christian's" need a heart check. Legalism has always been an issue since first century Judaism and throughout church history. Many of the Apostle Paul's letters deal with this topic as the Judaizes who were wedging their way into the churches and causing confusion about the law and God's grace through salvation in Christ.
What is correct doctrine (teaching)? How should a believer live their lives? What is permissible? Can we watch that movie? Can we drink this drink? Can we spend time with those people? Can we perform our music on that show?
Can we eat with "sinners?"
When we encounter questions as these we turn to God's word (the Bible) for wisdom. What did Jesus have to say about "eating with sinners?"
Mark 2:13-17 New International Version (NIV)
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and "sinners"?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but "sinners.”
(Bold and quotes added by me for emphasis).
As Jesus made his tour of preaching and teaching he first called Levi (Matthew) to follow him. Then he ate with Levi at his home. This was extremely controversial for the Jews since it was against their law. The legal overseers of the law (the Pharisees) took notice. They noticed Jesus ate with sinners. It was difficult to miss because such large crowds of sinners followed Jesus. Did you notice? Jesus called only Levi to follow him. However many other tax collectors and "sinners" made their own minds to follow too. We know what was in the mind of the Pharisee's as they obviously saw what they considered the breaking of the law by Jesus eating with sinners. But what was in the mind and hearts of all of these "sinners"?
I want us to put ourselves in their shoes for a minute. Imagine you are a tax collector. You couldn't make ends meet in your community. You had no choice, so you took a job that would lead you to work for a company/ or the government who took more than their fair share of your people's money. Now you are becoming wealthy by charging more than a fair price. You live this life for a while and family and friends begin to despise you and call you a traitor. You are cut off from your community and are also expected to bring in more money from a government that is, let's say very persuasive. How are you feeling? What are you needing? What do you desire most?
I imagine I'd feel shameful, lonely, fearful and longing for relief and acceptance again. I'd miss my family and friends and would hope for some type of reconciliation and restoration of our relationships.
Jesus came along and by calling just one "sinner," gained many other sinners (the harassed, shame filled, lonely, fearful, longing for acceptance) as followers too. They were attracted to a community that would accept them and love them unconditionally, even with the acknowledgement that they were indeed "sinners." It is the sick that need a doctor, not the "righteous" Jesus said.
Let's come back to the news worthy topic of Lauren Daigle visiting the Ellen show. I don't know Lauren's or Ellen's hearts. I know only parts of each of their life stories. I don't know them fully as God knows them. So what is my or any Christian's purpose in responding to events like this? What choices could we make that would be in alignment with God's character and will?
1) We could choose to condemn and judge others and discredit their faith - basically calling condemnation on their Christian identity.
2) We could choose to (if necessary) remember what Paul taught Timothy. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16.
3). We could choose to stay totally out of discourse and say nothing.
Do you see the difference? One takes the posture of being judge and bringing condemnation on a sister in Christ. The other through relationship offers teaching and discourse to train a person in righteousness to be a servant of Jesus. The man who posted the condemning YouTube post took the posture to condemn. And I will just bet he hasn't read much about her story, he doesn't know her heart and has probably never met her previously. But if he had a Christian disciple making relationship with her I think the conversation would be more as stated in 2 Timothy.
Is it possible that by Lauren Daigle worshiping the Lord in such a public forum, on this one controversial show, could bring many "sinners" to follow Jesus?
It is amazing we can have such a broad reach to the world through the platform of social media while sitting at home or on our smart phones. But there are professing Christian's with several different and polarizing viewpoints speaking out through social media. So let's keep in mind our purpose as Christ followers to build up and encourage each other in disciple making and in our call to proclaim this "Good News" of the Kingdom to a world of "sinners" in which we all are included. There are times when we need to rebuke or correct someone. However there is a difference between these and condemnation. Do you see the distinction? Is this helpful in our own social media and relationship interactions?
Certainly there is more to this conversation, but for today try this: Inviting just one "sinner" to dinner or for coffee. One person who you've had conflict with or who holds different views than yours. Serve, listen and love them! I'd love to hear your stories if you are willing to do this.
The invitation is set - God invited us all to His feast! We all are invited! Will you join Him?
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