Summary: Looking at how we should treat unlovely people
Our attitude to the Unlovely – Luke 5:27-32
Gladstone Baptist Church – 19/9/04
“It was a beautiful Sunday morning and people were filling the church to its fullest capacity. As they filed in, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, a sermon outline, etc. At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered in whiskers where he had not shaved for a very long time.
When he reached the door, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was long, dirty and tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled, black socks.
The welcomer looked at the old man and said, ‘Uh. I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don’t allow anyone to disrupt our service. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.’
The old man looked down at himself, he placed his old brown hat back on his head and turned to leave. He was respectful enough and didn’t want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church. He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through the closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing.
He answered, ‘I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was filthy and my clothes are old and worn and they were afraid I would disrupt their service. Sorry I didn’t introduce myself. My name is George.’
The stranger reached to touch George’s shoulder and said, ‘Hello, George, don’t feel bad because they would not let you in. My name is Jesus and I’ve been trying to get into this same church for years, and they won’t let me in either.
I hope that our church isn’t like this one, but “What is our attitude towards Unlovely people”. It is all too easy for Christians – people like you and me – to forget that we are sinners who are forgiven and to pretend that we some sort of elite religious club that very few on the outside could ever measure up to.
Sometimes, Christians – like you and me – say we want to reach people for Jesus Christ, but we are not prepared to accept them as they are. We put on them a whole heap of requirements which must be met before they join our church. We expect them to change their appearance, come to church every week, giving up alcohol, smoking or a homosexual lifestyle before they are accepted. But having “change” everything before being “Accepted” is the wrong way around. Jesus “accepted” people as they were and then helped them make the necessary “changes” afterwards.
Today, I want us to look at an encounter that Jesus had with an Unlovely person - unlovely in the world’s eyes and the church’s eyes. While few in society would have been prepared to accept this person, Jesus did and He actually invited him into his closest of circles.
Turn with me in your bibles to Luke 5:27-39
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus was still in the town of Capernaum. He has been ministering to people and healing people who had been spiritually oppressed, physically hindered and now he helps someone who is socially ostracised.
NOTICING the Unlovely
Jesus sees a tax collector named Levi (or Matthew as we are told in Matthew and Mark’s gospel). Now the Romans collected their taxes through a system called “tax farming.” They assessed a district’s wealth or potential and fixed a tax figure to it. Then they sold the right to collect taxes to the highest bidder. The successful contractor had to hand over that sum of money at the end of each year and could keep anything he gathered above that amount for himself. Zacchaeus was one such man who had tax contracts with the Romans. The successful contractor often had a whole heap of tax collectors he employed to collect the money for Him. Levi was one of these employees. The tax collectors could inspect the goods of travellers and levy a customs tax on the merchandise bought and sold. Levi would have likely been stationed at one of the various points of entry to the town or at the harbour, making sure that the taxes and levies were paid on all trades.