I have been “that guy”. I have been the one pointed at when I walked in the back. I have been the focus of whispers, hypocritical smiles, and condescending glances as I slid in a seat. I have been welcomed back when the eyes said, “What are you doing here?”
Jesus would have talked to me! He probably would have sat down next to me! I know He would have hung out with me at the church coffee shop! He might have been the one to invite me, but I think He might have been ashamed of the heart of the people inside.
Take a little stroll through the gospels. Walk with Jesus for three and half years. Get out your notebook and make two lists, “Saints” and “Sinners”. The local Jerusalem bookmakers have 10:1 odds on the sinners’ list being longer.
The woman at the well, the tax collector, the unclean, the unchurched, the poor, the beaten and broken were His kind of people. Maybe, He thought they needed Him most; or maybe, just maybe, He knew they would “get Him” most. They craved a change of heart, not more rules, not more church, not more of being less than those, who thought they were more.
Don’t believe me; read the Bible you like to thump. Jesus loved, but did not like “church people”. He was polite, but not nice. He spoke clearly, but confounded the educated. He loved the heart of men, but hated the rules of a church. He was humble, but His boldness blew their minds.
Rather than look in the mirror, they pointed their fingers at Him. Ultimately, they killed Him. Church-y, religious, holier than thou, pious, hypocritical people killed the “Answer” because they did not like the question – “Who do you believe I am?”
Until He walked up a hill, laid down on a cross, and gave Himself for me, He spent time with people like me – a sinner! If He were here today, He would spend very little time in our churches. He would be walking among the addicts, the hurting, the drinkers, the divorced, the lost, the wild, the “crazy”, the rebels, the unchurched, the sinners – just like me!
I think he might be trying to save the dying outside the walls of “the Church” because He knows “the dead already” reside inside. (Oh, but do not worry you, “religious” among us, just like Lazarus, He can raise the dead to life.)