How do you look at the person who is down and out, struggling with life, and fallen from most of the dreams they once had as they started trying to live for God? How do you look at that person who once had a great marriage with a lovely family and great attitudes who sat together in the same class at church but then the marriage came unravelled and word spread of affairs, divorces, remarriages and broken lives? How do you view that person who was hurt on the job and became addicted to pain meds and allowed the addiction to take over their lives? How do you look at your own failures, hurts and mis-steps along the way? How do you see that person who has been registered as a sex offender? How do you view the person who has come out of the closet and declared they are Gay?
The reality is we can view all such situations in two completely opposite ways. We can take the view of “Holier than thou” and look down from our perch of righteousness to condemn the person, their actions and everything about them. We can take the stand and declare how awful all such things are and how we just can’t comprehend how any person who claims to know God could ever get involved in such horrible deeds. Or we can take the view that everyone fails, messes up in life and does the wrong thing but that there is always a way back. We can have the redemptive view in which we believe that because of God’s amazing grace, people can change and start over to be all God calls them to be no matter what they may have done wrong in the past.
I believe God, Christ and the Holy Spirit all have the redemptive view toward people of all sorts. Look at God’s call of people to lead and show the way for others in the world, down through the years. He chose Abraham, a man who struggled obviously with fear that led to his lying about his wife and saying she was his sister to protect himself. He chose Moses who had anger issues and who had killed a man who was mistreating a person with the same skin tone as him. He chose David who struggled with lusts, to the degree he would steal another man’s wife and have him murdered to hide the sin. He chose Matthew, a tax collector and of low respect, Mark, who turned back when the going got rough, Peter who often spoke first and thought later, James and John who were so ill tempered that they were called “sons of thunder.” He chose Paul, the man who as a Pharisee so hated Jesus Christ and all He stood for that he held the garments as Stephen, God’s faithful witness, was stoned to death. Paul, who was a murderer, a blasphemer and a persecutor of Christians, was chosen by the Lord not only to be saved but to become the most powerful witness for him in the Gentile world. Paul himself would say that God chose him after all his failures to demonstrate the wonder of his grace in saving the lost.
Jesus came into the world to show us the Father. So, what did he show us about the Father that we should learn and imitate? He showed us that God loves people like the Samaritan woman who was an outcast that came to the well at midday instead of with the other women early or late in the day. He talked with her even though Jewish men don’t talk with Samaritan women. He showed compassion for her even though he knew she had been married five times and was now just living with a man she had never married. Yet he revealed himself as Messiah to her and sent her to the town as His witness to bring others to him. Jesus was comfortable when immoral women sat at his feet even in a Pharisees home and wet his feet with tears, drying them with her hair. He forgave her sins while pointing to the Pharisees hard heart, missing out on forgiveness. Jesus seemed far more comfortable with the sinful woman than the religiously bigoted man in the room. Jesus refused to condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery and challenged her to go and sin no more. He went home to eat with the tax collector that was known as a cheat, yet with Jesus he changed his whole life so that Jesus declared to the world as his explanation of why he did what he did, “I’ve come to seek and save those who are lost.”
If I want to be like Jesus, I need to learn how to take the redemptive view in life. Instead of looking at the sinner with eyes of disgust, I need to look through eyes filled with tears, with compassion and with the sincere belief, you can change, you can be forgiven and you can be a mighty servant in the kingdom of Christ. Shouldn’t Christians look like Jesus? Why is it that too often in life those who claim Christianity look more like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned than they look like Jesus?
Jesus story in Luke 15 known as the “Prodigal son” has been called the greatest short story ever written. Remember the occasion. “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.” Jesus responded with three stories. He told of the shepherd who had a hundred sheep and one wandered away. The shepherd left the 99 and went searching for the one until he found it and brought it back with joy. Jesus explained that was like heaven, that there was more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who don’t need to repent. The second was the woman who had ten silver coins and lost one. She did everything to find the coin and when she found it she called her friends to rejoice with her that she had found the lost coin. Jesus said the angels in heaven are rejoicing when one sinner repents. Then the crowning story that we remember best. A father had two sons. The younger came to him and requested to have his share of the inheritance immediately. It was a horrible thing to do. It sent the message of hate, disgust with your dad that in essence declared he wished his dad would die. The father granted the request and divided his living with the boys. That younger son left, went to a far away country and wasted everything in godless life. When he lost it all, the friends were all gone and he couldn’t get a job. He finally glued himself to a man who sent him to feed the hogs, the lowest job a Jew could imagine. There, hungry, tired, alone, he came to himself. He realized even the lowest slaves in his father’s house had much better circumstances than what he had there. He made the decision, “I’m going home. I’ll say to my dad, ‘I’ve sinned against heaven and before you. I’m not worthy to be called your son any more. Make me one of the hired servants.” He got up and headed home. He certainly didn’t expect a good reception. He had left angry, disgusted and arrogant. But as he got near the house, timid, tired, afraid, wondering what would happen, something amazing took place.
The Father saw him while he was still a long way off. He had been looking for him every day to come back. He recognized the walk of his boy. He ran to meet him, threw his arms around his son, kissed his filthy neck and called him “Son.” The boy started his speech. “I’m not worthy to be your son. I’ve sinned.” But the Father wasn’t hearing all that. He was talking to the servants. “Go, get the best robe out of my closet. Get shoes for his feet. Get a ring for his finger. Go, kill the calf we’ve been fattening and let’s have a party. My boy is home. He was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”
The party started with a bang. Then the older son came home. He had been out in the field working. He heard the music and dancing and he hadn’t heard anything like that in a long time. Pharisee types don’t do much partying. He called a servant to asked what was going on. He learned that his brother was home and his dad was throwing a party. He was angry, frustrated and disgusted with the whole thing. He refused to go in and pretend he was glad to see his brother. The Father came out to ask him to come in. But he gave his dad an ear full. “All these years I’ve been serving you. I never did anything wrong. Yet you never killed any young goats for me.”
QUESTION: Where are you in this story? Are you like the boy that had messed up royally and has now come home to an amazing reception? Are you like the loving father who accepts with tremendous joy and relief the fallen son and throws a party for him that he has come home? Are you like the older brother, frustrated that you didn’t get the goat? Are you thinking, “he won’t last?” Where do you fit in? We all fit somewhere. It could be with all three at different times and situations in our own life. If we are honest we certainly see that we have been the young boy at times who messed up royally. I hope like him we too have made it back home to a loving reception. I want desperately to be like the dad. I know it is God the Father in the story. But I want that kind of heart. I want to be the one that is ready to go out, hug the rebel, kiss the neck of the filthy and say, “welcome home son.”
I want in the coming weeks to take this concept called the redemptive view and think of how we can apply that heart to all kinds of situations and people in the world that need a savior in their life. I would love for you to walk along with me in this study and if you have suggestions or thoughts to share on this whole point I would like to hear that as well. I think it will be a good walk together.