A couple of days ago I was reading in Matthew 9 in one of my Lent devotionals. Matthew 9 that day just seemed jammed packed of lessons that leaped off the page at me. But it was this section I thought that I might blog about: (Matthew 9:9-13) NLT
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Show Mercy, Don’t Offer Sacrifices
What was the point that Jesus was trying to make here? Here he is surrounded by “such scum”, and the religious leaders have their tails all tied in a knot. It just so resonated with me that we can talk all we want about religious activity, even about helping people, but when it comes down to it, we have to sit down at the table with them. They aren’t going to understand Christ’s love just by our preaching about it, talking to one another about it, or reading / writing books about it.
I’m growing increasingly more concerned that the Church is failing to see the practicality of our faith. Perhaps it’s just a perspective gained from being in Southeast Asia and returning to the States. It just appears that the Church is so concerned about becoming a fortress that it’s missing the mission of advancing the Kingdom! I was driving around Warsaw today in between appointments that I had and was praying about God bringing people into our lives that needed his love. The Church must be intentional in its interaction within the community it resides. I must be intentional in my interaction with others in need of God’s grace. Sunday only religion won’t cut it in the Kingdom.
So the challenge I’ve received this Lent so far is to be much more intentional in my faith. It’s been a process we’ve been working on for a few years now. It’s caused us to take some incredible steps and experience some amazing things. We’ve seen victories, fallen on our faces, “loved the least of these”, loved some of what the world would consider “great” and learned to depend more deeply on God through it all.
If what I say, pray, and share on Sunday doesn’t impact my community on Monday through Saturday, I have to ask myself (and maybe you too), “are you showing mercy…or just offering sacrifices?” Only one will advance the Kingdom.