READ: Isaiah 55-57
THINK: God loves sinners. It’s pretty clear. He loved us enough to die for us, and he loves those around us as well. But I think sometimes it’s easy for us, as Christians to keep the “sinners” in our world at arm’s length. We judge them from afar and avoid them so as to not, by any means, be corrupted by them or accused of tacitly consenting to their sin. But it strikes me that this isn’t God’s approach. Jesus constantly spent time with the “tax collectors and sinners,” much to the annoyance of the religious establishment because he had a clear mission: he came to seek and save the lost.
I love God’s call to all of us sinners in Isaiah 55. Come all you who are thirsty! Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on them. It’s an incredibly beautiful passage. But it’s challenging too! Because we are God’s plan to reach the unrighteous people around us. The church – the collection of God’s called out people – is the hope of the world! And so we have to step outside our comfort zones and be the hands and feet of Christ in our world. We have to bring God’s incredible invitation – come ALL you who are thirsty – to the thirsty people around us. It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. And it can be done!
By the 4th century AD, Christianity – the little ragtag faith started by a guy from nowhere and his band of fishermen – was the official religion of Rome, having been adopted under emperor Constantine. But then another emperor came along named Julian, and he was known as Julian the Apostate because he said, “We gotta ditch Christianity and go back to all the pagan ways of our forefathers. And so he set about trying to reinstitute pagan religions and get rid of Christianity. But he ran into a problem. Nobody wanted to switch back. There just weren’t a lot of people interested in joining his cult. And he was frustrated and he wrote a letter to an adviser about his interpretation of why Christianity seemed so compelling to the people, “Recent Christian growth is caused by their ‘moral character’, even if pretended and by their benevolence toward strangers. I think that where the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by [our] priests the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence. The impious Galileans support not only their poor but ours as well, and everyone can see that our people lack from us.” I love it!!!!
Why did Christianity win? Not because of it’s awesome billboards. Not because it elected the right guys to office and passed the right laws. Not because it had the most money. Because people got on fire for Jesus and started living like him – for him – in a messed up world because they believed that it would make a difference…that it would start a revolution and change the world. Are you willing to live radically? Are you willing to show God’s love and mercy to the “sinners” around you? Are you willing to develop God’s heart for the lost? I hope so. Cause you’re God’s plan to reach them!
PRAY: Ask God to give you his eyes for the people around you. Ask him to transform your heart. Ask him to forgive you for your self-righteousness and judgmental attitudes. Ask him for open doors to share his love and mercy today!
Incredible history! Amazing quote from Julian. Wow!