“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, ‘Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?’
“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” ~Matthew 9:11-13
A little scene setting, for while many may reference this scripture, not all know its context—and that’s a problem. Jesus had just called Matthew (Levi) to follow him. The experience so altered the tax collector’s life, that he invited his friends to dinner to celebrate and meet Jesus.
These men were Roman collaborators assigned a tax quota to raise. As payment for their services, they were allowed, by Rome, to collect whatever they could extract from their fellow Jews. Whatever they raised, above the assigned quota, they could keep. That they were hated and considered the lowest form of life is understandable.
When the religious leaders complained about Jesus going to a sinner’s house for dinner, He had a lesson for them. He said He went because they were depraved and sick. They needed God and they knew only God could fix them. The Pharisee’s problem was not that they were religious zealots, but that they felt no need for God—they were good enough already.
I’ve been a Christian for almost fifty years now. There’s no denying that I’ve met some believers who badly needed an attitude adjustment. I cannot honestly say that I ever met a believer who thought they had no need for Jesus. They might cite scripture, and that rather forcefully, while limping along wounded and sick. Jesus has a cure for that—I’ve had it applied to me more than once.
It's those who shout “Hypocrite” the loudest who tell me they are fine as they are. They readily confess, as did the Pharisees, that they do not need Jesus, they do not want Jesus, and we’d all be better off without Christianity. They are righteous enough all on their own. They were born just fine the first time, is how some express it. They rant about Christians’ “needless” concern for them. They are right. Christians need not be concerned; their detractors are already whole and righteous.
The only problem is Jesus Himself. He demands Christians care and that they tell His enemies that He loves them too. More than that, Jesus wants the job done from a cheerful, willing heart. It’s not easy. But who said Christianity was easy?
I think I did.
But I said that in comparison to the alternative of trying to be righteous without Him. For me, Christianity has always been a step up on the happiness scale. I need God more now than I did fifty years ago because the tests of my faith just keep getting harder and I’m still not righteous.