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Loving the Unlovable

In Mark 2, we see the story of Jesus calling Matthew and Matthew's desire for everyone to know Jesus.  What did Matthew do to tell his friends about Jesus?  He threw a party so that his friends could hang out with and know Jesus, too.  

At this party, Jesus was hanging out with a very questionable crowd - tax collectors and others whose life and lifestyle clearly put them in the category of "sinner."    Hanging out with questionable people was never a problem for Jesus because He would never do questionable things.  He was always the influencer and never the influencee.  Remember your reason for being in relationships.  You connect with others to share Jesus with them or to be more like Jesus because you have been with them.  Never allow questionable people to lead you to do questionable things because you are an influencer.

When the religious elite saw Jesus and His disciples eating with this crew, they asked why Jesus would be at such a gathering.  Catch how Jesus used this gathering and their questions to clarify who He is and why He came.  In Mark 2:17, Jesus put it this way:  17 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.” Why was Jesus eating with sinners?  Because He is the Great Physician that makes house calls to heal the sick.  Why was Jesus eating with sinners?  It's because He came to seek and save the lost.  He is the Savior who forgives our sins!

Through this story, we also learn something powerful about God's love and the difference between acceptance and approval.   Jesus accepted everyone.  He dined with sinners and He talked with the self-righteous.  But, He didn't approve of everything that everyone did.  In answering the Pharisees, Jesus called his dining party sick and lost and He pointed out the Pharisee's self-righteousness.

This is counter cultural love.  The world demands that we accept and approve of everything that everyone does, but that's not loving our neighbor as Jesus loves us.  How does Jesus teach us to love?  We must accept people and build relationships, but we don't give blanket approval of things that are outside of God's will and God's Word.  That's not loving.  The loving thing is to show the love of God and point everyone to Him so that He changes them from being sick and lost to being sons and daughters.

One way to love like Jesus is to live the Golden Rule that Jesus gave us.  It's straightforward and simple:  treat others the way that you want to be treated.  Don't treat others the way that they want to be treated or treat people the way they deserve to be treated.  Instead, treat them how you want to be treated.  

When you have trouble loving someone, ask yourself, "How would do you want for them to treat you?"  And then, treat them like this.  I recommended treating people kindly by listening to understand them;  respecting them because they are made in the image of God; and always saying the truth to them and about them.  What qualities do you want in your relationships?

Here's a great prayer to pray this week to live what you learned:  Lord, give me the discernment to know the difference between acceptance and approval.  Help me to accept people who are different from me and even people that I don't like so that I can help everyone know Jesus.  Thank you for how you are working in me.  In Jesus, name.  Amen.