Summary: When we grow weary of our sin-sick world, and maybe even of sinners, we must remember that Jesus urged us to be mirrors of His mercy, and He came to call sinners, not the "righteous"
Mirrors of Mercy
March 1, 2009
We hear every day about sin and sinners at work in the world around us. We see it on the news. We see sin at work in our neighborhoods. We see it in our workplace. We see it in the marketplace, whether that’s the mall, the restaurants we frequent, or elsewhere.
When we see sin at work in our world, when we see sinners, what’s our gut reaction sometimes?
I have a confession to make. My reaction is not always godly. Sometimes my less-than-godly reaction is because other people’s sin causes me inconvenience, or even serious problems in my life, sometimes through absolutely no fault of my own.
Sometimes it’s because the sin bothers me tremendously – it’s so heinous, so vile, so disturbing. Sometimes I think – “how can someone be so stupid?”
Sometimes, do you look at the news and think, “Lord come back soon,” or “Lord, lift me out of this world of sin and suffering.” Or, worse yet, “Lord smite these evil people.” That’s only, I guess, if you think in King James language.
I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but I’ll admit that sometimes, I struggle with thoughts like these. Sometimes, these kinds of thoughts keep me from being the light of Christ in my various spheres of influence. It certainly keeps me from engaging with sinners sometimes.
What’s more, I see passages of scripture like Psalm 1, which tells us
Psalm 1:1 (NIV) Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 Corinthians 6:17 (NASB77) "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.
1 John 2:15 (NIV) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
These kinds of passages create a tension for us, don’t they? We may truly seek holiness in our lives, and in so doing, think that separation from the world means separating ourselves from the sinners in the world – not having anything to do with them. What’s more, we have an amazing fellowship of believers here at TCF. It’s certainly a lot more pleasant to hang out with you folks than it is to face the challenge of hanging out with blatant sinners.
Sometimes, I just don’t want to be around sinful people, people who aren’t seeking God or trying to follow Christ in their lives. It feels like too much trouble. So, we wrongly use these and other similar passages to justify a nearly complete separation from the people in the world, forgetting that Jesus also said in John 17:15:
John 17:15 (NIV) My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
and Acts 1:8 where Jesus told us
Acts 1:8 (NIV) …you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
We also read in 1 Corinthians 5
1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV) I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
So, we see that our pursuit of godliness and holiness, is not as simple as just separating ourselves from the world.
Please don’t take anything I’m saying this morning to mean that we should just hang out with sinners without having our eyes wide open to whether or not we’re the influencer or the influencee. There’s got to be a balance here, and we must be wise. If we’re hanging out with sinners, and as a result we’re sucked into their sinful lifestyle, then clearly we have a problem.
But, then I read a passage like the one we’re about to look at, and I have to admit, seeing the example of Jesus Himself, I’m deeply convicted, and must repent before God for my lack of mercy.
Turn with me to Matthew chapter 9, beginning with verse 10
Matthew 9:10-13 (NIV) While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ’sinners’?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."