Heartlight Special Feature
Luke 15:1-2

Receiver of Wrecks, by Jim McGuiggan

    You’ve noticed, of course, that God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, was always getting into trouble with the religious, church-going people. Yes, it was the right-living, devout types he offended most. Don’t you find that very interesting?

    He was always defending certain people against these “good” types, and that’s what created much of his difficulty. But it’s who he was defending that really gets our attention. It seems he was forever defending the “sinners” against the “righteous,” and he was often found hanging around the immoral, the outsiders, the churchless people of ill repute.

    All this makes for great preaching and fine writing (if you can preach or write well). It rolls easily off the tongue and pen, and we church-going, righteous people are sure it’s the kind of thing you should say about God. Hmmm.

    Luke tells us they were offended at his eating with sinners and tax collectors. That really got their attention; for surely, if he were a holy man, he would have hung around holy people—that’s what good people are expected to do—hang around good people.

    What should have gotten their attention and didn’t was that the publicans and sinners hung around Jesus! In this there is something of a mystery. How is it that these moral wrecks and religiously sidelined people wanted to be around the most God-conscious man who ever lived?

What was there about him that drew sinners into his presence?

    It wasn’t that he was naive about their character—when he pictures them in the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” he describes them as self-serving, immoral, self-dishonoring brats! It wasn’t that he soft-pedaled the issue of sin. No, this young rabbi not only spoke against sin, he lived against it. And he was so enraged by it that he died to destroy it and all its fruit, so enraged by it that there was no price he wouldn’t pay to rescue humans from its clutches. He despised and loathed its every form—crass or respectable, flesh or spirit, deed or disposition.

    So what was there about him that drew sinners into his presence? He made them believe that God meant them no harm—that he loved them in their lostness and that he came to rescue them from it and give them the fullness of life! Marcus Dodds tells us that when God sat in village streets watching the people, he thought they looked like donkeys plodding their weary way under their heavy burdens, heads down and legs dragging. He saw them as the (almost) indifferent ox that knew of nothing better, dragging its yoke from one end of the field and back, day after day, until, with its strength wasted, it was disposed of.

    He saw them as poor, pathetic people—lost among the stars, wandering up and down on a planet that was spinning its ways into eternal darkness. He saw them as people in need of peace and rest. He saw them as people who endured fruitless labor, without satisfaction or hope. Toiling day after day to make ends meet, they added to their burdens by chaining themselves with sinful habits, the pursuit of superficial pleasures, and sinful indifference to what God might have in mind for them. And by doing this, they burdened themselves further with fear and remorse. Giving up on themselves, they gave up on everyone else and banded together only to make the loneliness not so lonely and the time go more quickly as they traveled on to the grave.

    And so God himself sent them a message, a Story, and he put it into the hands of influential leaders and teachers who were supposed to tell its loving truth, were supposed to tell it to these who saw themselves as people beyond redemption. And what did these teachers do? Instead of bringing this joyous message to their fellow sinners, “the righteous” gorged themselves on it and shut the love of God off from anyone who didn’t meet their standards of behavior and doctrine. Instead of recognizing the tired and weakened condition of these hopeless ones, they laid on them the further burden of a joyless religion.

    It was to these tired, weak people—ancient and modern—that Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


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HEARTLIGHT(sm) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Excerpted from The God of the Towel, by Jim McGuiggan (Howard Publishing, 1997)
Copyright © 1997 Howard Publishing Co., Inc. Used by permission.
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