Four times in the Gospel of Luke, religious leaders accuse Jesus of somehow being wrong and ungodly by spending time eating and conversing with sinners and tax collectors. The first occurs in Luke 5 when Jesus attended a big reception that Levi had thrown in His honor. At this reception were all of the friends of Levi. Like him, they were other tax collectors and the riff-raff of society. This was Levi’s best attempt to get his friends to rub shoulders with Jesus, the one who had just revolutionized his life to such an extent that he would forever be known by a new name…Matthew. The religious leaders harshly question the disciples on why Jesus would eat with such people.
The second occurs in Luke 7 when a sexually immoral woman realizes who He is and shows her love for his forgiveness by washing his feet and drying them with her hair. “If he were really from God, he would know who this woman is and he would not let her do such a thing to him!” That was the thinking of the religious leaders.
In Luke 15, it happened again as Jesus was teaching. Tax collectors and sinners were so drawn to Jesus that they were working their way up to the front of the crowd. Again, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being in the wrong by allowing such people to get close to him.
The final such accusation by the religious leaders happened in Luke 17 when Jesus called the little man named Zacchaeus, who was also a tax collector, down from the tree which he had climbed in order to get a better look at Jesus. The Lord then invited Himself over to his house and again the Pharisees voiced their disapproval and criticism.
Isn’t it interesting that every time Jesus took a step toward rubbing shoulders with lost people that the critics to his actions came from the religious? Not much has changed. Show me a church that really cares and really strives to reach lost people and I will show you a church that will be in the crossfire of critics and these critics will more than likely be from inside the religious ranks. These churches will be accused of only being interested in numbers; in marketing Jesus; or in watering down the Truth in order to fill their auditoriums with crowds.
So what do you do when your passion and desire to see the local church reach lost people results in these kinds of responses and accusations? In my opinion, this brings about a decision time in our lives. We must decide which we will listen to…our critics or our calling. Will we tone down our aim and change our purpose because of the words of our critics or will we fall back on the real reason why we care about lost people and have made it our passion and core value to reach them…because that is exactly what God has called us to do?
The more Jesus made lost people His priority the more criticism swirled around about Him. But His response never wavered because his calling stayed the same…“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)