If I were a person outside of the church, I might think that Jesus hates me. To an outsider, it appears that Jesus is angry with me, because the church is angry with me. I have habits they reject; I have different values; and I don’t share their political leanings. I am confused. The church judges me, but seems very tolerant of its own hypocrisy. I am genuinely interested in Jesus. But, I don’t fit the culture of church. What am I to do? What would Jesus do? How did Jesus deal with sinners?
Notice Jesus’ interaction with sinners in Luke 5:27–32, “After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus is not afraid to call sinners to become followers. Christians are also known as Christ followers or disciples. A disciple is a learner or one who follows after a certain leader. We are Christ followers. We learn from him. The church must have a great love for sinner, because our leader does. Jesus purposefully mixed with sinners. He was not afraid of them. He did not treat them as enemies. He sought their company, and called them to become his followers.
Jesus spent enough time with sinners that the religious establishment accused him of sinful activity. About Jesus they said in Matthew 11:19, “He came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him!’ A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” In John 9:24 they said, “We know this man is a sinner.” If the church starts loving sinners like Jesus did, they will say the same about us!
In John 8 the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and threw her down at Jesus’ feet. They questioned Jesus as to whether he agreed with them that she should be stoned to death, as according to Moses’ law required. Jesus said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” All the accusers walked away on shame. Jesus said to the woman, “Where are your accusers, does no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” Jesus answered her with the most amazing words, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Like Jesus, the church must adopt a non-condemning attitude toward sinners. A loving attitude will win sinners toward repentance. God loved the world so much that he sent his son to us. Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Jesus loves sinners. The church must love them also.