Luke 15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The spiritual authorities in Jesus’ day regularly criticized him for hanging out with the wrong people, “tax collectors and sinners”. To be fair, tax collectors were generally awful people. They collected taxes from their own Jewish people, sending some to Rome and keeping the rest. They were considered thieves. Yet Jesus welcomed those who responded to his teaching. Why? Because they were aware of their need to get right with God.
On the other hand, Pharisees and scribes simply judged people like tax collectors, wrote them off. Via the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin Jesus reminded his listeners this was NOT how God saw such people. They weren’t incorrigibles to be condemned, but persons to be pursued and offered repentance. Ironically, their judgmental ways revealed how the Pharisees and scribes were also in need of repentance, though this didn’t occur to them.
We too live in a culture that encourages us to judge people with whom we disagree or disapprove. This is especially true with regard to political/social differences. We’re conditioned to believe those who see things differently aren’t just of a different opinion, but are downright evil. It’s like a civil war of sorts in which violence is increasingly perceived to be an acceptable response. It scares me. Seriously. I keeping thinking people will stand down, but… not so much.
It’s a huge problem I feel powerless to address, but there is one thing I can do. I can admit my own faults and broken places because I certainly have them. And then, like Jesus, I can love on people – even when I want to judge them. Lord, let it be so. Amen.