Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:1-7
God is a righteous judge, and Jesus intercedes for us.
He went in search of me when I was lost. I was poor, I was lonely, I was confused, and I was actively sinning (I was bothered but I wasn’t repentant) when I felt compelled to walk back into a church building. Thankfully, I found a group of people who were equally imperfect and who didn’t judge me.
Many churches give the impression that people need to qualify before even walking in the door. I have never qualified for heaven and I never will. So I am deeply troubled by the expectations placed on outsiders.
Remember, there are two messages in Luke 15: Jesus actively seeks sinners. And Jesus does not favor “good” people. As insiders, we have to be gracious about that. Welcome should apply to every one of God’s children, and Come as you are should refer to everyone who is curious, questioning, or hoping. Come rich, come poor. Come white, come colored. Come hurt or angry. Come tattooed or not. Come married, come divorced, come gay. If God’s children need changing, it’s up to Jesus to change them, as only He can. Let’s let Him do it.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34