Included – Luke 7:41-50

So, this fellow invited Jesus to dinner. He was an upstanding citizen in his community and extremely loyal to his church.  Everything was going just fine, till this “sinner” entered the room.  She wasn’t such an upstanding member of the community.  She had no business in such a gathering – no business in the home of such a religious man – no business near Jesus. 

What this “sinner” did was amazing.  She came up to where Jesus was reclining at the table, knelt down at his feet, and began weeping.  As she wept, her tears fell on Jesus feet and she dried them with her hair. 

The religious guy was getting really upset.  This was his home, his party, his time with Jesus.  He didn’t like sharing it with another, especially a sinner like this woman.  “Everyone thinks this Jesus is a prophet,” he thought to himself.  “But if he were really a prophet, he’d know that he shouldn’t be anywhere near such a woman.”  Righteous people have no business with ‘sinners’”

I’ve heard that sort of thing on occasion.  A discussion comes up in the church about the need to engage segments of our community, developing friendships, and becoming a missional presence.  It will cost us in terms of time, energy, and resource.  It will demand that we see church as a verb, not noun; as a movement, not a location.  It will demand that we stop thinking in terms of “them” and “us.”

In my last blog, I told about an experience as a Youth Minister in a congregation located in an inner city area of Louisville, Kentucky.  It was a region with lots of drug abuse, crime, and the rise of gang violence.  We conducted a “Youth Lock-In” as an attempt to connect to the teens in the community.  For one night, nearly 40 teenagers were kept off the streets, out of trouble, in a safe and positive environment.  One of them, a 13-year-old boy named Tommy, came to understand the gospel message that he was included in God’s grace, and he responded by confessing Jesus Christ as his Lord.

The next day, after the event, I was called back to the church.  Some minor damage had been done to the facility, which I offered to repair.  That wasn’t the point.  “You don’t understand,” the man who had called me to the church said, “we don’t want people like that coming to our church.”

So, while the young boy had heard from Jesus that he was included, the message he received from the church was that he was excluded.  Kind of sounds like the same attitude expressed by the religious guy who was so upset by the “sinners” proximity to Jesus.  For Jesus there was no “them” and “us.”  He had come to reveal the truth that with the Triune God, all were included.  The woman got the memo.  The religious guy didn’t.

Jesus knew what the guy was thinking.  Not sure this was some sort of miracle insight ESP sort of thing.  Religious people are fairly easy to read.  So Jesus tells the man a story to set him straight on what God is all about. 

Jesus said,  “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41-43)

Then Jesus proceeded to tell the religious guy what his mission was all about.  He had come to announce God’s forgiveness.  He had come to tell everyone that they were included under God’s grace.  Unfortunately, some folks miss out on the whole “mercy and grace” thing because they don’t think need it.  Like this religious guy.  He didn’t think he needed anything from Jesus.  But the sinful woman knew she needed Jesus.  So, while both were included –only the “sinner” recognized her need and entered into an awareness of God’s grace. 

Do you know that you are included?  It doesn’t matter how bad a person you are, you are still included under God’s grace.  It’s for you.  God is for you.  Maybe you are a good person.  That really doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s not enough.  Still, God includes you.  That’s what Jesus came to share with us.  Through Jesus you are included.  Don’t stand outside that grace.  Recognize your need and enter into an awareness of God’s grace.

There’s something more in this story.  The more we experience God’s forgiveness, the more we share that with others.  The more we experience God’s love, the more loving we will be toward others.  The more we understand that we are included in God’s grace, the more gracious we will become.

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