Scripture Reading: Luke 5:27-32
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
All around the world, churches are being sold off and converted into temples, stores, homes, and nightclubs. People are leaving the faith in droves, and for every person who comes to Christ, there are a thousand who go away. In churches across Europe — those that are still open, that is — it is common to find just a handful of people attending a Sunday service, and all of them are grey-haired. The question for any concerned Christian has to be: "Why? Why don't people want to come to Jesus anymore?"
The answer, unpleasant as it might be, is us. People don't come to Jesus because those of us who call ourselves his followers do not show the face of Christ to the world. If we appear to be unmerciful, unforgiving, and unkind, people think that Christ must be like that. Do you see? We have to be like Jesus in our attitude toward people. He said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). This is what people need to feel when they see us.
However, we seem to have become like the Pharisees we so despise. When Jesus had a meal with people that the Pharisees considered "bad", they complained. "Why do you eat and drink with sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Churches should be like hospitals, inviting the sick and the wounded, the bruised and the broken; not like airports where you have to show a Covid-free certificate before they let you enter.
Millions of people in the world today are lonely and suffering, wounded and hurting, depressed and suicidal. They struggle with addictions and sinful habits that they want to put an end to but can't. Only Jesus can help them, but they won't find him unless we introduce him to them. But they have to see him reflected in us if we are to do this. Paul says: "As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another as the Lord forgave you."
And then he says, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12-14). God is love. Let us show people this love. And see how millions of people start packing our churches again.
Before I conclude, I’d like to invite you to register for the next School of Discipleship starting Sunday, March 7, where we will learn how to show people this love. Classes will be held on Zoom every Sunday at 9 am GMT. This corresponds to 12 noon in Kenya, 1 pm in the Middle East, 2.30 pm in India, 5 pm in Manila, 6 pm in Japan, 8 pm in Melbourne, 10 pm in Auckland. You will find more details in the registration form. Registration is limited to 240 students, so please register now.