We’ve all been there. We hear the toilet flush. And then, the bathroom door swing opens, and we are face to face with an extended and unwashed hand. Quite naturally, most people like me find the whole situation unnerving because we do not want to touch someone who is unclean. Ugh…that’s gross. And so we find some polite around the situation such as a fist or elbow bump. Anything but a full hand embrace!
Sadly, we tend to treat people who spiritual unclean the same way. When we come across someone who has unwashed hands, we tend to walk away. We prefer the clean people. We prefer the people who dress like us, who talk like us, and who respect us. Let someone else work with the kids and adults who smell bad, steal, and take advantage of good Christians. Of course we don’t say it this way. We hide our disdain in much more religious terms. We say things like, “We want to get deep and serious about the gospel, and those unclean, sickly kids will distract from our program. We don’t want unclean people messing up our building and drinking our coffee. After all, God called us to be good stewards.”
The problem with all of this thinking is that it never justified by the scriptures. Jesus loved unclean sinners. Jesus reached out to the spiritually sick. In Matthew 2:13-17, we read that Jesus called Levi, a tax collector. Jesus saved a man who made his living cheating his neighbors. Jesus saved the unclean man who was excluded from good church society. And not only did Jesus save Levi, he fellowshipped with him and a bunch of other bad dudes and gals. Jesus ate with them. He cared about them. He went beyond gospel proclamation. He directly invested in them.
If we are going to be like Jesus, if we are going to have ministries the reflect Jesus, if we are going to have churches that embrace Jesus, we have to witness and fellowship with the unclean. We have to care about the spiritually sick, the divorced single moms, the drug addicts, and the kids who get expelled. We have to care about them enough to share the gospel. We have to care about them enough to welcome them into our homes and churches. We have to be willing to make meals and spend late nights talking about the truths of the gospel. Sure we might lose a phone or two, wonder why there is a hole in the wall, and deal with the fact the middle schoolers are drinking coffee. But such is the Christian life. There is no other way. Why?
Jesus came to heal the sick. He came to heal those who need a physician. Friends if any of us are saved and if any of us are respectable, it is purely by the grace of God. We are nothing special. We all were just as sick and unclean as those who ruffle our good church sensibilities. If we are truly those who follow Jesus, then we have love the spiritual sick. We have to be willing to hang out with the unclean. We have to be stop seeing church only as a nice place for concerts. We have to start acting like it’s a hospital for the wounded and weary.
At the end of the day there are two groups of people. Both are sick. But only the first knows it. The second ignores their symptoms and pretends they are better than everyone else. Jesus went to those who knew they were unclean. He went to those who needed the great physician. Which group do we belong to?