STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Flood Church’s Weekly Devotional
SERIES 2: The Sin Also Known As
“They asked Jesus’ disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A disease contaminates us.
Jesus compares being a sinner to being a patient in need of a doctor. Sin is thus compared to a sickness, and it is in the nature of a sickness to contaminate the body. The response of the religious towards the spiritual contamination of sinners is to isolate themselves from them. After all, do the Scriptures not say that “bad company corrupts good character”? God’s response is to move towards the contaminated ones, to eat with them and to live with them until he administers the cure for our sins.
This is scandalous, for it presents us with the theological crisis of trying to reconcile God’s eternal desire to pitch his tent with sinful mankind and God’s eternal decrees that sinners ought not to approach his holy presence without cleansing. But the scandal is in our perspective, not in God’s character. Our sins are so vile a disease that we are forbidden from approaching this holy God. Jesus did not come to show that sinners can now approach a holy God without needing to be cleansed from their contamination. In fact, Jesus did not come to show that sinners can now approach a holy God at all. His message, his life, his coming, and his death are all a proclamation that the God who is too holy to be approached by sinners on their own terms has approached sinners on his own terms. The Scriptures are consistent in hammering home the fact that we cannot and dare not come to God on our own accord, on our own merits, on our own initiative; but they are also consistent in hammering home the fact that God has come to us on his own accord, on his own merits, and on his own initiative. He himself has crossed the quarantine barrier and the boundary of contamination we ourselves cannot cross, and he has not crossed it to exterminate us, but to cure us.
The first miracle of the incarnation is that God has chosen the companionship of sinners over the righteous, the sick over the healthy. How then can we claim to be walking with Jesus when we turn away and isolate ourselves from the sinners he is said to delight to eat with? How can we say that we have Jesus in our company when we live in isolation from the sinners the Gospels says are regularly in Jesus’ company? The second miracle of the incarnation is that our bad company has not corrupted God’s good character, that our disease has not infected him. How then can we claim to be walking with Jesus when being in the company of sinners leaves us trifling with sin in our own lives? How then can we claim to have Jesus in the lead when we participate in the sins we claim he came to cure? The third miracle of the incarnation is that Jesus cures our sins. How then can we claim to have Jesus when we have not submitting our ailments to him as to a physician who knows what incision to make and what panacea to apply? How can we share the stories of our lives with Jesus without sharing the sins from which he cured us yesterday, the sins from which he is curing us today, and the sins from which we trust him to cure us tomorrow? We cannot speak of our doctor without speaking of our disease. When it comes to sin, we are either sick or cured, never immune.