Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 16: Hanging With the 'D' List

Day 16
Theme: Hanging with the ‘D’ list…
Passage: Matthew 9:9-13

9As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this; they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in? Maybe it was during high school or college? You were the skinny kid, or the fat kid, or the slow kid, or the smart kid. One of those many one word adjectives that were used as a derogatory term not praise when said about you. Well meet Matthew.

Matthew is right there with you. Meet a man who traded his country, his faith for a new job. Matthew became a tax collector. This immediately caused him to be disowned and hated by his fellow Jews as a traitor. In fact that could be why we don’t hear him being called by the name his parents gave him of Levi. Levi’s were PRIESTS and he was far from it.

Yet that all changed one day when a stranger came and showed he cared. “Follow ME”. Two words that changed Matthew’s life forever.

What may confuse you when you read this passage was why Matthew then throws a party and invites his “Old” friends. You know, those friend’s that he had BC (Before Christ). I mean after all he is now better then they are since he is a follower of the RABBI. That was confusing to some in that day as well, the Pharisee’s. Jesus though was right at home.

But come on now, these people weren’t the religious group, they weren’t even semi religious. They were so NOT religious that we see those called SINNERS and TAX COLLECTORS. In the Jewish Mind there was a special place for a tax collector that was worse then normal sinners. But not in Jesus’ eyes. He loved them where they were.

Now lets resurface something we discussed before; our feelings of priority, of better standings, of superiority over sinners. How about those drunks on the street? We don’t want to be near them. Or the homeless shelter that asked you to help just one time give out a meal?

In our history as a church there have been many things that we have stood quiet by and watched happen. Hitler’s genocide. Dietrich Bonheoffer stood up and paid for it with his life. He expected the church to stand with him, but they didn’t.

Martin Luther King took a stand over the injustice and prejudicial treatment in our culture. And the church did not stand up with him. Here is heart of pleading with the religious leaders of the south:

I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular……

In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. 1

So again ask yourself: When you hear AIDS what do you think.

Maybe your inner most thoughts reflect the thoughts shared to David Platt as written in his book RADICAL:

As we sat around the den, they asked me questions about how my wife and I were doing. I shared with them about inner-city ministry in New Orleans, where we were living at the time. I told them about ministry in housing projects ridden with poverty and gang violence. I told them about ministry among homeless men and women who struggled with carious addictions.

Then I told them about ministry opportunities God had recently given me around the world. I told them about people’s receptivity to the gospel in places that are traditionally hostile to Christianity. I told them that, whether in the inner city or overseas; God was drawing people to himself in some of the toughest areas of the world.

Expecting them to share in my excitement, I paused to listen for their response. After an awkward silence, one of the deacons leaned forward in his chair, looked at me, and said “David, I think it’s great you are going to those places. But if you ask me, I would just as soon God annihilate all those people and send them to hell.”2

That may seem harsh and you might say that no one in your church would ever say that. But you know what, they may just think it. It comes from our thinking we are somehow better then others. We don’t have AIDS so it is okay that we are having an affair, or are addicted to pornography. But AIDS somehow is that much worse. But Jesus told us that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Does that change your thoughts?

Tom Davis had this to say about AIDS in his book RED LETTERS:
A happy baby boy is bouncing in a crib in southern Africa. He looks and acts just like any other baby you’ve seen. He coos, laughs. There is a spark of genuine joy in his bright eyes. Turn your head just a bit. Look over there – in the corner of the room. Do you see that woman with the lifeless eyes? She is the baby’s mother. She looks down when you catch her eye, and though she knows you mean her now harm, you can sense the fear marked by her bowed head.

You want to know her story, so you ask questions. It is difficult to ask – what do you say? But it is even more difficult to hear her answers. She is the victim of an AIDS cleansing ritual. The victim of a lie. It is a lie that circulates across Africa and states that if you have sex with a virgin you will be cured of AIDS. This beautiful woman was systematically raped by men who thought her virgin blood would cure them.

Then that bouncing boy? That smiling baby? He was the product of that gang rape. His mother is dying of AIDS. And someday, a day that could steal the joy from this boy’s eyes; he will learn that he is infected by HIV.

Sadly, this story is not unique. The number of people who are infected with HIV, though no fault of their own is staggering:
In 2005, several hundred thousand children age 14 or younger became infected with HIV. Over 90% of newly infected children are babies born to HIV – Positive women, who acquire the virus at birth or through their mother’s breast milk. 3

So do you still think that this is just a SEXUAL issue?

How did Jesus treat these diseases? Leprosy was the aids of his day. Did he ignore them or condemn them?

Are we acting like the Pharisee who is saying that they deserve what they get?

Are we like Jonah?

How do you perceive those who are less fortunate then you? The homeless, the loveless, the sick? Even those who may have brought it on themselves? Are they still precious in God’s site?

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