Jesus, Friend of Sinners

*Beginning note, please forgive my absence for these past three months, I am still getting adjusted to work and school even when I only have the one child at home! πŸ™‚

As I began my devotion time this morning, continuing to study the word #JOY as it can be found in scripture, I came across a really wonderful verse in Acts. Acts 14:17, here it is in context of the moment being expressed by Paul, insisting that he and Barnabas were mere men just as the people they were reaching out to through their acts of healing and serving the Lord. He told them “We are only men with feelings like yours. We preach the Good News that you should turn from these empty things to the living God.

16Β In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17Β Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18Β Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Shortly after some neighboring Jews showed up and quickly filled the minds of these same people with the idea to stone them! They did and Paul was drug out of the city believed to be dead. Crazy right? One moment they want to worship these mere men and the next they are stoning them to death!

Then I got distracted.

I often look through my fb news feed before I start my prayer time, so that I can be mindful of my friends and family, those in my community who might be in need of prayer. As I filtered through this morning, I came across a link shared by a mother of an old classmate. It was to a blog, the entry entitled “When she became a he – Walking in love”. My friends reaction was what I might have expected so I too read the entry.

It is written by a woman, a Christian woman, mother of four (I feel her pain ;P) who was shopping with her husband. While in a particular store, she recognized the sales associate as someone she knew from many years before only something had changed. The young man that she had known so many years before, attended church with – was now a woman.

She went on to share the encounter; it was uncomfortable at first. The friend visibly shaken, certainly inwardly thinking about what she must have been thinking about them. Wondering if she was inwardly judging them. The woman recognized this and put him at ease, smiling and expressing genuine excitement about seeing an old friend and they proceeded to reminisce about old childhood friends and shared pictures of their families. She shared that they talked for quite some time and when she left the store how sad she felt for this friend and why. She reminded us that if we are who we say we are. If we are indeed Christians, followers of the Living God; then shouldn’t we love like He did? Shouldn’t our actions be a reflection of Him?

And she’s right, Jesus didn’t stay away from the sinners, he spent time with them; teaching them about the truth in His Father’s Word. He healed the sick, ate with tax collectors andΒ  even had an in depth conversation with an adulterous woman. I often remind my children that we can certainly not approve of someones actions (especially when we understand it to be sin) but if we are truly Christians and want to “be like Jesus” then we still need to love those friends, the sinners, the lost souls who have undoubtedly been deceived by the lies that Satan quietly whispers into our ears. If we stopped talking to the people we know who make these sorts of drastic life changes, openly displaying behavior that we disapprove of, that is considered to be, by definition sin- who would we talk to? Where would our friends be?

Her post made me think of a friend of my own. I dear friend who helped me get through a lot when I first moved back to Nebraska so many years ago. We were neighbors, both single moms with little ones. I had my three oldest, all under 5 at the time and she had two, both under 6. We babysat for one another so we didn’t have to miss work or school, or if we just needed a night to ourselves! We went shopping together, took our kids to the park together. I shared my deepest hurts with her, and she did the same. I moved to my current hometown and she move out of state causing us to loose track of one another. Then thanks to good ole facebook I found her again a few years ago. But she had changed, she was in a relationship and ultimately married another woman. I was shocked initially and I won’t lie, it made me sad for her. Because in my eyes, her lifestyle is something that will keep her from the same eternity that I wanted to share with her. Yet, my God, the loving God He is wants me to love her still. We chat occasionally, laugh about old times and marvel at the amazing young men and women our children have become. She reached out to me with kind words and her own prayers when both of my daughters were in life threatening situations. I pray for her and her family as well, that they have good health and that they are happy. I pray that she will find Him once again.

Prayer, it is the only tool I have.

I try to use it often.

I hope I use it well.

Then there was an article about the very much heated transgender bathroom issue with Target. Simply put, it reminds us as Christians that we are not in this battle with the people who consider themselves transgender, or even Target. We are in battle with the ultimate enemy, Satan himself! I just finished reading Paradise Lost this past week for my literature class. I had always heard so many mixed things about reading it as a Christian, I think that as Christians, we need to read it! I have to believed that just as the Bible was God directed, God breathed; that Milton, who indeed professed a strong faith was directed by God in the images he creates as he tells the story of the fall of man, once again reminding us that we are all sinners. I enjoyed how he walks us through so many pivotal moments in the Bible, both old and new testaments. It almost seemed as if time intertwined in such a manner that it leads me to wonder if our years here on earth will be but a millisecond in heaven.

Oh the #JOY we will know then.

So whatever your initial thinking on many of the tough issues, we can’t control much in this world beyond our own actions. We need to hold our swords and not in haste cut off someone’s ear just because we don’t agree with their lifestyle. We need to love them like Jesus would. Remember WWJD? We need to reach out to them and without condemnation try to show them what the Word tells us to be true. Pray for them. Pray with them if they allow, asking God to show them His way, to draw them near to Him. How we react or don’t react is important because as we all know we have young eyes watching our every movement. Our children our our future. Let me repeat: Our children are our future! I don’t mean the children you gave life to or raised, but any child you may come into contact with as you work or serve in your church or community. They watch us, as our actions are far louder than our words… In showing compassion, they will learn compassion and our world needs a lot more love and compassion in it.

I’m not saying, that we teach them that the behaviors we understand and believe to be wrong are acceptable. I’m saying we remind them that everyone, even those whose actions we disapprove of should be treated with kindness. Once again asking ourselves:

“What Would Jesus Do?”

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Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

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Until the next moment,