Making a special effort

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
- from Luke 15:1-2

We’re going to take one more pass through Jesus’s remarkable story of the father and his two lost sons. This week, we’re going to zoom out and look at the context surrounding the story and see that Jesus is not just a nice story-teller, he’s brilliant.

Look at the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus: tax collectors and sinners, Pharisees and teachers of the law. There’s something attractive about Jesus. He appeals to all sorts of folks, even if he drives them a little crazy.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had a hard time with Jesus’ welcoming posture. They crossed their arms, squinted and muttered. In their opinion, tax collectors and sinners needed the silent treatment, tough love and a firm hand. Welcoming and sharing meals with people whose lives were on the wrong track sent the wrong message.

But Jesus knew just what he was doing.

Throughout his ministry Jesus made a special effort to connect with those who were socially ostracized, vulnerable and far from God. He put extra effort into welcoming them.

We try to do the same thing as a church. We want to follow Jesus’ example, even though it’s difficult and we fail sometimes. We want to be extra welcoming to folks who need an extra welcome.

We create small group resources that everyone can participate in, whether you’ve been following Jesus for one day or 40 years. We make space in our worship services to acknowledge folks who are new to church and are still on their journey back to God. We even cancel services multiple times every year to go out into the community to love and serve our vulnerable neighbors.

We do this together, but we’re also called to do this in our personal lives and individual relationships.

How can you reach out to someone who’s socially ostracized? How can you care for someone who’s vulnerable? How can you show hospitality to someone who’s far from God?

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