Pathology or Service?

15 01 2009


Luke 15:1-7 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!


It seems that whenever we stray from our caste, clique, club, or group, we arouse suspicion in others.  Why is it that we are so afraid of those who are not like us?  Christians, within three years of becoming believers, usually have no friends outside of their faith.  Yet here, Jesus gives us the ultimate example of how we should be in the World, but not of the World.

Often I’m asked why I spend so little time with church members and so much time with those outside the church; the unchurched, if you will.  My short answer is: “Luke 15.”  But often I’m met with blank stares.  I think I probably need to explain this in more detail.  Just because a certain scriptural address resonates with me, that doesn’t mean that others will know where that address points to.  And, it also doesn’t mean they’ll be motivated to remember and look it up later.

This is why Jesus spoke in parables.  Though we may not totally understand the point, we will remember the story and later it may click for us.

Jesus had a habit of hanging out with the less-desirables of his community.  However, the religious leaders of the day complained that he shouldn’t do that.  They were probably thinking of the adage: “Birds of a feather flock together.” But Jesus knew why he was with those people.  It wasn’t to get affirmation, ideas, or camaraderie from them, instead, he was there to give affirmation, blessings, and fellowship to them.

It takes great strength to be in the World, without being of the World.  Alone, and on our own, we are unable to do this.  We are too weak and easily tempted.  But when our connection with God is strong, we are better able to withstand the fiery arrows of the enemy.  Most of us need to flee temptation at all costs – and that was my approach when I first was finding my relationship with the Lord.

This morning I was taking care of my Smiling (toddler) Son.  He is quite well behaved and compliant.  For instance, he knows that my phone is off limits and he generally leaves it alone.  Several times though he came up to me and as he turned away he saw my phone on the table.  He stopped and got stone sober.  He stared at the phone.  Just looking.

I watched him to see what he would do.  If he started to reach for it, I would gently remind him, “no,” I would say – and he would toddle off.  Once, I let him look and look.  It was as if he was trying to get the courage up to touch it or grab it.  It wasn’t a game, he wasn’t laughing, he didn’t appear to be trying to fool me, but he was curious.  That is to be expected, here is this ubiquitous object in his life, another gadget, and he has handled every gadget within 30 inches of the floor – but not these fancy, button-laden, shiny objects The Wife and I spend so much time cherishing.

God cautioned Adam and Eve to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Don’t even go near it He said.  Now, I don’t know about you, but that would make me curious.  “Hmmmm….I wanna go see what’s so special that I shouldn’t be near it.”

I suppose it’s about trust.  Do we trust our Father when He says it is dangerous?  Or do we have to find out on our own?  Does my son trust me when I say my BlackBerry is not for him to play with?


More to the point of the above texts, do I trust that my Father will take care of me when I go places and meet with people who don’t share my values?  He says that we can drink poison or handle snakes without fear, why would I fear some fun people who are possibly going a different direction than I am.

Now I can’t enter into these relationships and situations with presumption, just assuming that I’ll be safe.  This can only come out of great strength which is only found in my relationship with God.  Also, I have to listen to Him regarding which people or situations are “safe.”  For instance, I would not be safe in adult entertainment venues, but though I’m a recovering alcoholic, I have no trouble being in a bar or club.  We have to know ourselves and listen to our God.  Stepping out in presumptuous arrogance is not just stupid, it’s scary.

The one two four things I get from this today are:

  • First, I have to better explain myself to those who don’t understand the need to be “in the World.”
  • Second, I have to balance my priorities between my inreach and outreach activities.
  • Third, I have to know why I’m there…
    • Is it a pathological agenda, e.g. for my own needs?
    • Or is it service and evangelism, e.g. for the Kingdom?
  • Fourth, all of this needs to be humbly covered by God’s direction – meekness must rule.


Lord, save me from my good intentions, my unfocused motives, and my self-confident ways.  Lead me in paths of righteousness and deliver me from my enemies.  Please give me strength to better articulate the principles you’ve placed in side of me, and forgive me for blurting out abstract concepts to those who are unprepared to hear these ideas.  Help me to be more concrete, patient, and intentional.





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