Scripture: Luke 15:2
While Jesus was on this earth He moved among the people. Most of them were ordinary and some of them of dubious character. He had many Zacchaeus type of people whom the elite of the land had totally neglected and called them ‘sinners’. So when the critics of Jesus accused him of receiving sinners they meant any kind of people who were looked down upon. They were labor class, working with the occupied Roman army, tax collectors, prostitutes and people who did not meticulously observe the law of the Pharisees and religious leaders. So in a sense even Jesus and His disciples also were ‘sinners’ as they did not fit in the typical elite society of the day.
Jesus gladly received such rejects and ate and drank with them. This was an anathema to the religious people of the land. He was known as a friend of sinners and prostitute. He was a superstar among the ordinary people.
Who is Jesus according to the Bible? He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Creator of this unfathomable vast universe. He owns the whole universe and the angels in heaven prostrate before Him crying ‘Holy is the Lord God Almighty’. But when He came to this world, the Bible says “He became flesh and dwelt among us” Just try to imagine how far and how down He had to come to be with us. This is inconceivable and mind boggling as a Bible scholar called “mysterium tremendum”. I have feebly tried to understand this mystery but simply could not understand but I know this Mighty God and Wonderful Counselor did not remain in heaven and sent few words of counsel but came down to live with me, a vile and filthy sinner. Not only that He came down to take us up to Him and has blessed us with all the heavenly blessing. The Bible says in Phil 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross”. It is indeed true when the hymn writer says ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one’. But can we really count? His blessing is immeasurable. His blessing is not that He gave us something of Himself but gave all of Himself on the cross as a sacrifice on our behalf for our sins. He died on the cross surrounded by not only the devout but also those who opposed him. He died for the sinners and among sinners.
How did those people feel when Jesus walked among them? In the midst of poverty, sickness and sins He dared to move them and make difference in the lives of the people. These days Rahul Gandhi is moving among the Dalits of the land. He has vote in his mind but I think he also genuinely believes that they have been neglected or misused by the ruling class and caste all these years. He is popular because he dared to live among them
I have always been pro poor and those who are downtrodden in society. One of the leaders once told me that may you feel a lot for the poor because once you were poor. It is partly true but this is not the full truth. I feel greatly for them because when I see Jesus He inspires me to move among the needy.
The higher we grow in leadership the more there is tendency to move away from the simple ordinary people and many times we are comfortable because then we do not have ‘soil’ ourselves. Some leaders want to serve the poor but do not want to move among them. This has been the bane of many of the Christian leaders and we need to watch that we do not fall in the same trap.
Someone has said “A saint is someone in whose presence sinners find easy to live” We have this twisted view of a saints. We think saints are those whose is eyes are almost all shut, has perpetual beatific smile, unapproachable and sits in one place contemplating eternal things. No, the Biblical view of a true saint is someone who does have deep relationship with God but they are also seen in homes, streets and classrooms. They go where the needy and hurting people are and help them where they are. We see the Catholic priests and nuns not only in prayer and contemplation but on the streets with sweat and even tears. So a saint should be someone who is among the people and the people see the difference in the saints but feel most comfortable to come and be with them. Just flip the pages of the Gospels and see our Lord who is the Most Holy God going around and people flocking around Him. He never condoned sins of the sinners but His love was so magnetic that sinners came to him and got changed. He was the true Light who did not curse darkness but by His presence dispelled darkness.
A leader must know that it takes time for people to change and we can only change them when we are with them and help them. When I talked on this issue to our leaders in our church they instantly decided that these poor people need Bible study. But the Bible class did not last more than four sessions. What our people were crying for was not primarily a Bible study which in any case they were getting. They needed leaders to come to their Basti, enter in their dark plastic huts, just be with them with a cup of tea and perhaps listen to their hearts. No, the leaders are not willing and it breaks my heart. They want to serve without personal involvement. How can it ever be?
One of the struggles I have with many church leaders is in this area of leadership. The leaders are willing to pay money, preach on Sundays and conduct programme but they were not willing to go to places where the ‘sinners’ and work. They were willing to be religious leaders but not willing to be shepherds of the people. This is a massive leadership flaw.
Jesus moved among them because He really loved these people. He looked around and saw them like “sheep without shepherd” Beloved there was no dearth of religious leaders in Israel but there were no shepherd. It is an indictment of today’s church and her leaders. We have but very few who really tries to understand the ‘sinners’
You never know who comes to know the Lord and many times it is those people who are terrible sinners who believe and become a great saint. I know a famous and very godly pastor who first went to a prayer meeting to steal a pair of shoes. There he heard the saints pray and instead of stealing shoes he became greatly interested in the meeting and later became a believer in Jesus Christ. Today he leads one of the most effective ministries.
Many times ‘sinners’ are like uncut diamond. Only the experts know the value of shapeless peace of stone. In the same way only Jesus knew who Peter and disciples were and what they could become. Most people who need Jesus will not come to us. They do not know they are lost or need Jesus. If we ask them to come to us many of them will not come but when we go and share our love with them we are given them opportunity to talk to them about the Lord. The Lord could have started a Center or an Ashram and preached and I am sure many would come to hear the words of wisdom. But He went among them and reached much more people.
Drawing inspiration from the Lord Jesus Christ the church has always gone out in the society and served people. We have the largest army in the world to serve the poor and needy people and they are everywhere. If Jesus had not come to this earth as a human being and moved among us we would have no tangible and living example to follow.
Among our beloved Nepali people the Lord has worked miracles. Each day we hear of people coming to know the Lord. If we conduct a serious research we will know that those who believe in the Lord go out and share among the people how the Lord changed their lives and how they too can experience the same thing. We must by example and teaching always teach our people to not move away from the nonbelievers but be among them. Light is needed where there is darkness and we shine as lights in this horrible darkness of sin and depravity. Our Lord is our radiant example of full and complete identification with all the sinners, hurting and needy people.
Poignant statement: Church is not only a huddle club of believers but hospital for those who are sick with sin and hopelessness.
Prayer: Lord, I confess that at times I find hard to be among the needy people. But help me to be with all those who are in need so that I can really show and share the life changing Lord Jesus Christ.
Republished in new layout on 8/6/2013