by Ryan Duncan
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Some time ago a stranger visited my church's Sunday service. He arrived early, while the worship team was still setting up, and the minute I saw him I became nervous. It was clear from his appearance that he’d made a lot of bad decisions in life. His cloths were worn and dirty, while his body had been grossly contorted by years of unhealthy living. I remember doing my best to avoid him as I went about my work, hoping that if I ignored him long enough he’d just go away.
Not exactly my finest moment. In fact, I’d say my attitude was no different than Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner.’" - Luke 7:36-40
This is one of the biggest dangers we face as Christians: becoming exclusive with the grace of Jesus Christ. The Church is not a showcase for saints, but a place where people of all backgrounds can come and say “I need Jesus”. Neither is God’s love ours to withhold, nor are we more deserving of His mercy than the stranger off the street. In fact, the Bible is pretty clear that Jesus made a habit of knocking “Holy” individuals down to size:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" - Luke 7:44-50
As for the man at the service, my friend reacted much more graciously. He struck up a conversation with the man and welcomed him to the service. He even agreed to help him go grocery shopping later on in the week. I learned a valuable lesson that Sunday; you cannot love someone by omission, you can only love them through action.
Intersecting Faith and Life: “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.” – G.K. Chesterton
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."