Saints and Sinners
By Jonathan Weiss
Reposted from Missionary Jon @ https://missionaryjon.wordpress.com
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus chose to spend the vast majority of His adult life surrounded by the outcasts, the rejected, and socially unacceptable folks. His closest friends were uneducated, smelly fishermen, greedy tax collectors, prostitutes, and hypocrites. Poor, uneducated, young, old, simple, complicated, humble and proud. And those who were considered “religious” and acceptable, He continually challenged and argued with. (“Woe to you hypocrites!”)He proclaimed, the healthy are not in need of a doctor but the sick are.
This was His mission, to proclaim healing and salvation to those outside of God’s love. If we are convinced that we want to live like Jesus then this is our mission as well, namely to surround ourselves with the poor, the outcasts, the hurting, those who feel outside of the circle of salvation.
Granted we are also called to community and to work alongside our own brothers and sisters, but remember who the great saints were before they met Jesus. Peter, James, John, and Andrew were all simple, poor, dirty, uneducated fisherman. Matthew was a hated, greedy tax collector. Paul killed Christians by the dozens.
If we want to be like Him then we are called to walk alongside the Mary Magdalene´s, the doubting Thomas´s and the Judas’s who seem completely outside of the Lord’s hand. God wants none of His children to suffer condemnation to the fires of hell but he relies on us to step outside of ourselves, to reach beyond loving the saints like ourselves and acknowledge our sinfulness alongside other sinners.
It is so easy in our time, even here in the missions, to hide from the poor and dirty, both physically and spiritually. It’s easy to insulate ourselves from those seemingly outside of His love, to only love those who might love us in return.
What about those who have never known love? What about those who have never felt a loving touch in their life? What about them? Can we forget them just because it is uncomfortable to love them? No, we cannot divorce ourselves from the sinner who is most in need of Jesus´ loving touch and mercy! We are called to be in this world, but not to be of the world. The world that Jesus was a part of was full of suffering and pain much like our world today if we step out of ourselves. If not then we are submitting ourselves to the world of comfort, the world that the devil would like us to dwell in.
Last Sunday I met two men, or rather, I briefly experienced the lives of two men living in this reality of a world full of saints and sinners. In the case of the first, he was a drug addict whom I watched, buy drugs in front of me on the street. It was plain to see that he was hurting, that he was lacking love, and that he was of the category which Jesus would have spent his time with. But as I sat there watching, I did nothing. I only pitied his situation and went my way.
Later that day I met the second man, a living saint. Bishop Francisco had been the acting bishop of Saltillo for over twenty years when he retired but I am not sure you would think him retired today if you walked in his shoes for a day. I was privileged to be able to celebrate his 88th birthday on this particular Sunday, and in him I witnessed a man still full of passion, life and love for our Lord and His children.
But what makes the humanity of the drug addict and Bishop Francisco any different? Are they not both children of God created in love and for love? Does God not love them both equally as if they were the only one? And yet I acted as if God loved the saint more than the sinner. How I wish I had had the boldness and conviction to turn towards the first man and proclaim with gentleness and Christ-like compassion, “God loves you!” I lacked the selflessness to reach beyond myself, and instead of judging him, love him.
I am praying each day that God will give me the grace and compassion to love both the sinner and the saint, and to realize that I am more often the first man not the second. Praise God I am not condemned but loved and welcomed into the company of fishermen, and prostitutes, drug addicts and bishops. Have mercy on us, Lord for the times we remain within what is comfortable, and let our hurting brothers and sisters remain without the hope of mercy and love.Button