Luke 15 begins its chapter with these words, the New Living Translation put it this way: Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. Did you hear that? Notorious sinners. In four of the five gospels, Jesus said “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but the sinners.”
And Paul himself, in his book to the church in Rome said, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul is the perfect example of that, isn’t he?
Character after character, the whole Bible is about redemption—about God knowing we are sinners who are trapped inside of something that we can’t get out of. But Christ comes to redeem, or restore, us to who He intended us to be. We don’t always know our own potential. Saul didn’t. But God does.
He sees us as who He originally intended us to be. Think about that. God did not intend for us to be trapped as sinners. Who he intended for us to be was established since before the foundations of the world, but it changed in the Garden. Who you and I are, our Godly potential, was established before the foundation of the world and changed millennia before we were ever born. But because of the cross, he can change it back. It doesn’t happen instantaneously and not even fully until we are rid of these bodies. But the process starts at the time of choosing Him.
In order for us to be an effective Christian witness to the world, as a church body of believers in the world Monday through Friday; as a church building and as a church service on Sunday, we need to see everyone around us with the eyes of whom God intended for them to be.
Now, I’ll admit, it’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? With some, it’s easy to see, but I have to admit it, I can be like Ananias. I can look at some people and think they’re irredeemable. I have a hard time seeing the potential in people. I have a hard time seeing how God could transform certain people. But if He can do that with Saul, he can do that with anyone.
I want us to think about how many testimonies you have heard where God changed someone’s life. Time after time, after time, after time we have heard testimonies like this. What about your testimony? Where were you at one time, and how did God transform your life?
Are you like Ananias? Does God need to change your vision? Does God need to help you see people for who they could be as redeemed sinners rather than notorious sinners? Maybe God is calling you to reach out to someone that you’re afraid might respond negatively, even harshly.
Are you like Saul? Are we thinking we’re doing the Godly thing, but in actuality are we persecuting God’s people? Are we not seeing people who are already saved for who they already are in Christ? Are we so judgmental against other Christians that we think we should put them down and persecute them because they go to a different church denomination, dress differently, watch movies we wouldn’t watch, listen to music we wouldn’t listen to, use language we wouldn’t use or drink something we wouldn’t drink? Is God telling you to stop laying down judgement, being divisive and persecuting His people?
We Christians have had a bad habit for far too long saying, so-and-so isn’t a real Christian because of such-and-such. It’s time to stop judging, putting people down and persecuting. It’s time to start living in such a way that lifts people up. Everyone needs encouragement no matter who they are; they need to be loved and respected. It’s called living the Christian life. And that was a commandment. And that’s how we show people the way to the cross. They already know they’re sinners, but they don’t all know they’re loved.