Text: Luke 5:27-39 | Listen to Message
Holy, Joyful Compassion
Conservative Christians are generally pretty good at demanding that sinners repent and get right with God, but they’re often short on compassion. As a result, the sin-sick often don’t feel welcome in conservative churches – because the message they’re hearing is, “You need to clean up your life first, and then you can come.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, liberal Christians are generally pretty good at displaying some kind of compassion for sinners, but they’re often short on leading them to a place of repentance. As a result, sinners probably feel more welcome in liberal churches – because the message they’re hearing is, “You can come and stay just as you are.”
So conservative churches often resemble museums for saints, while liberal churches often resemble pubs for sinners.
Quibble with the labels and disagree with the stereotypes if you want. Call the first group “self-righteous” or “pharisaical” if that makes you feel better. Call the second group “carnal” or “worldly” if that seems more appropriate. But don’t miss the point: neither holiness without compassion nor compassion without holiness is the way of Jesus!
In Luke 5:30, the religious leaders are all bent out of shape because Jesus was eating and drinking with sinners – notoriously unclean sinners at that. Worse yet, Jesus actually seemed to be enjoying himself! So they confront him: “Why, Jesus? Why would you associate with the scum of the earth?”
Now catch Jesus’ answer in Luke 5:31-32. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Do you hear what Jesus is saying? He’s saying, “I hang out with sinners because they have a need and I have the cure!”
See, Jesus neither avoids sinners nor condones sin. Jesus pursues sinners, welcomes sinners, loves sinners, and shows compassion to sinners … AND he simultaneously demands that sinners repent and become well! That’s what any good doctor does!
So if Jesus is the physician seeking out the sin-sick in order to make them well, then what is the Church? It’s an Emergency Room. It’s a place where people come, broken and hemorrhaging and burning up with a high fever, and are rushed to Jesus to be made whole.
If the Church is going to resemble the real, historic Jesus then we’ve got to choose this third way forward. We cannot settle for an unholy compassion or an uncompassionate holiness. We must see that true godliness demands compassion and true compassion demands godliness.