Post details: How might Jesus' treatment of outcasts influence Christians today?


Permalink 10:51:25 am, Categories: GraceHead teaching, By Trent
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How might Jesus' treatment of outcasts influence Christians today?

4 days ago, I got an interesting question in my inbox.

How might Jesus' treatment of outcasts influence Christians today?

my answer ...

Yours is an excellent question, and a very open / broad question. Likewise, my answer is broad. Please follow up with more details if you were looking for something more specific.

Jesus' life is an example of how a human should live. He was always dependent on the Father in Heaven, for what to say, and do and where to go, and when to go there. He was a clear glass, invisible and therefore a perfect vessel for the visible expression of the invisible God. Demonstrating the best way to live, and giving glory to the Father, Jesus calls us to do the same and live dependently up the Lord Jesus for all we do and say. As we abide in Him, His life will express itself through us as though it was us, but it is actually Him..The influence of the Lord Jesus upon Christians is direct, and indirect. First indirectly merely demonstrating, then directly as He, Himself, actually causes the dependent Christian to walk in His ways.

We can be, as dependent Christians, clear as a glass window, so that people will see Jesus, through us. We can shine His light, and that light will be as counter-culture today as it was, when Jesus shined it 2000 years ago.

Here are some things that Jim, a friend of mine, says regarding what His expression of life will be. An abiding branch will bear (not produce) these types of fruit towards the "outcasts."

Concern for Little Ones - Matt. 18:6-11; Mk. 9:42-50

Contrary to typical methods of religious recruitment, God is interested in the little ones, the least, the lowly, the "losers," the "lost." Religion touts their celebrities, people with big name recognition, people with money. Religion is concerned with winners and conquerors, people who can be lifted up as trophies of success. Jesus explains that God's grace is extended to those in need, the "have-nots," and if we repudiate them or cause them to stumble and be scandalized by our attitudes, then it would be better if we had a millstone hung around our neck and should sink into the depth of the sea. Stumblingblocks to receptive faith and participation in the kingdom will surely come, Jesus indicates, but woe to the religionists who create stumblingblocks to faith. The lowly, the outcasts, the "have-nots" are not dispensable; they are not spiritual "throw-aways". In fact, Jesus notes, your physical body-parts such as hands and feet and eyes are more dispensable than are these needy people. Severe judgment, "salted with fire," awaits all religionists who hinder the "little ones" and the "lost ones" from entering the kingdom of Christ. Salt can be good, though, and the pervasive characteristic of salt should permeate and season all of our interpersonal relationships. The seasoning of the character of Christ will preserve our kingdom interactions from the rottenness of religious contention and exclusivism.

Matthew, the toll-tax collector, called to follow - Matt. 9:9; Mk. 2:13,14; Lk. 5:27,28.

Walking along the seashore must have been a relaxing respite for Jesus since He was so often crowded by onlookers and seekers. Even so, a large following developed and Jesus taught them until he met Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at his toll-booth. As many in this region of mixed races and religion had both a Hebrew name and a Greek name, he might have had a dual name of Levi Matthew, and it is the latter of these by which he is more popularly known and identified elsewhere. Levi was a Jew who was employed by the Roman government to collect tolls, tariffs and custom taxes, and was referred to as a "publican," for he engaged in such public duty. Since Capernaum was on the primary trade route from Damascus, Levi would have been collecting highway tolls for using the road, import and export taxes on merchandise traveling in either direction, farm taxes, fishing taxes, along with fees and taxes on almost any other objects and activities that he and his superiors could think of taxing. His position allowed for much abuse and graft, embezzlement and extortion. It is not difficult to see why first-century Jewish patriotism regarded tax-collectors as collaborators with the oppressive occupying power of Rome. They were regarded as traitors who had sold out to the enemy of God for mercenary motives. There was an intense hatred for these legalized criminals who seemed to have "a license to steal." Pharisaic tradition regarded them as morally unclean and unacceptable, to be ostracized as outcasts in the same category as harlots, thieves, gamblers and common criminals, allowing for no association without contamination and moral pollution.

Without respect for religious and cultural traditions, Jesus came to make Himself available to all mankind regardless of their race, nationality, sex, morals, vocation, economic class or other concerns. Jesus does not seem to have shared the narrow patriotic attitudes of the zealots of His day, who regarded paying taxes to Rome as an unfair imposition. He did not engage in the pretensions of religious and social respectability which would ostracize the civil servant employed by Rome. He invited Matthew to become His disciple, saying, "Follow Me." Again we must note the ontological basis of identification with the very person and being of Jesus in contrast to religious solicitations to follow after and identify with a cause celebre based on a particular ideology. Matthew followed Jesus and became true to his name which means "gift of God."

Concern for the Lost - Luke 15:1-32

The Pharisees were separatists who in their self-righteous elitism sought to avoid defilement and maintain ceremonial cleanness by disassociating from all sinners, i.e. those who did not conform to their teaching and practices. They were scandalized that Jesus would engage in the impropriety of having table-fellowship with the down-and-outs, the social outcasts and the unacceptable, thus accepting them as equals. Jesus tells three parables that explain His behavior and freedom of association with "losers" and the lost.

Though religion may be content to count the number who have remained faithful and not strayed, such is not the modus operandi of the kingdom. Since the Jewish religionists were not of Jesus' flock (cf. John 10), they would not have been able to understand how the divine Shepherd functioned. "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). God has individual compassionate concern for the lost who are willing to repent by recognizing their lostness, changing their mind so as to admit their inability and act in reliance on God's grace ability. The pious, self-righteous religious rule-keepers do not regard themselves as needing to repent in this way, and so remain stern and sour in their proud propriety. They never understand the celebration of joy in the divine recovery and restoration of fallen mankind. Joy (chara) is the attitude and expression that results only from experiencing the grace (charis) of God in Jesus Christ.

Religion is content to count the coins in the coffer and devise manipulative schemes to induce others to contribute additional coins. The attitude of God within the kingdom is like that of a poor woman who has lost one-tenth of her savings. Searching for the lost coin in every crook and cranny, she celebrates with joy when she finds it, just as God rejoices over the restoration of one sinner.

Birthrights were important in the Jewish religion and culture of the first-century. When a son initiated the breakdown of family solidarity by demanding his portion, and then squandered such in sin and failure, he would be much despised. The additional degradation and disgrace of tending swine was so offensive and abominable to Jewish thinking that they regarded such a person as a Gentile and a lost cause. The son in Jesus' parable of the "lost son" recognized his desperate need and inability to resolve his predicament, and was willing to confess such and become a day-laborer for his father. God's love and compassion for discredited and admitted failures is portrayed in the forgiveness of the father toward the son and the generous grace that restored him to full relationship as a son. In the Christian kingdom of Christ there is joyous celebration accompanied by the abundant lavishment of God's gifts of grace when the lost have been found.

The older brother in the parable serves as the portrayal of religion which has contempt for failures and "losers" who cannot or will not do it correctly and conform to expectations. Like the older brother, the Jewish religionists were "angry and refused to go in" to the kingdom celebration. Like Jonah, they were angry that God should exercise compassion and mercy upon those who repented. In like manner as the older brother was recounting his propriety and rightness, religion often engages in the bookkeeping and record-keeping of their performances, obedience and correctness, assuming a moral superiority and pride of virtue that should be able to claim exclusive rights before God. In their self-righteous calculation of their self-efforts, they regard it an unfair injustice that God should extend grace to sinners and failures.

Jesus was explaining His behavior by contrasting the proud contempt of the Jewish religionists with the grace of God within the kingdom which He came to bring in Himself. Only in the admission of our inadequacy are we free to accept the adequacy of God's grace (cf. II Cor. 3:5).


Comment from: Pam [Member]
Hi Trent,

I have missed your writing. God kept you quiet for awhile so that He might pour out in abundance through you the wonders of His Grace in being foolishness to those who through the power of their pride seek to keep themselves above all others. May God through Christ Jesus keep me free of all such pride and make me fully an instrument of God upon the earth. Pray for me, pray that God will keep me secure in knowing that I am of use to Him even on the many days that I have now that I feel quite useless. On the days that I feel very low, I will remember what you've written here and know that God is not a trophy hunter and my usefulness does not depend upon my own strength of health or my usefulness in the eyes of others. On the days that I feel useful and on the days that I don't, all of my glory is in Jesus and every day given to me is for the purpose of His Life in me.

Permalink 02/23/07 @ 12:45
Comment from: Vint [Visitor]
Thank you brother ....this was a great reading for myself...gods amazing in christ to all of you here...
Permalink 02/24/07 @ 09:02
Comment from: Arlene [Visitor] ·

Blessed be the Name of the Lord most high.

Christians must realize we all have an ugly past, thus being outcasts ourselves at one time, not forgetting that Jesus Himself came from a lineage of sinners.

As Chritians we are to be fruit inspectors, that does'nt mean you throw away the whole fruit just because it is bruised.


Until the Whole World Knows!!
Permalink 02/24/07 @ 16:28
Comment from: Len [Visitor] ·
One of your best, Trent. Can I have your permission to post this one on my blogsite?

Keep shining thru with Jesus. truth is: we've ALWAYS been nothing without Him.


Permalink 02/27/07 @ 09:34
Comment from: taylor [Visitor]
Excellent...thank u Jesus for speaking thru mere humans who are created by you and for you to share with you throughout eternity...your love is found completly in whom now lives in us and through us...

Trent, love u bro...God is raising u up and many others for such a time as this 2 lead out those who think that they see and truly hear...may God continue 2 fulifll ur eternal destiny in and thru Himself...
Permalink 05/30/09 @ 19:12

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