But the Pharisees and the men who taught the law for the Pharisees began to complain to Jesus’ followers, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to invite good people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.” [Luke 5:30-32 (NCV)]
My mother always cleaned our house before the cleaning woman came. She explained that she didn’t want her to see how dirty our home had gotten since the last cleaning. This doesn’t make much sense to me, but I know many women who do the same thing. They are so ashamed of the dirt and mess in their homes that they straighten it up before the cleaning service arrives. Of course, there are others who won’t let anyone in the house unless it is on an absolute “need to enter” basis!
It makes even less sense that many of us aren’t willing to let God into our hearts because of the dirt and mess we’ve made in our lives. Jesus didn’t spend His time with self-righteous religious leaders; he spent His time with sinners who were always welcome at His table. Before they met Jesus, Matthew and Zacchaeus were corrupt tax collectors, Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons, and the woman at the well had what could politely be called a “colorful” past. Jesus came to cleanse us from sin, yet we seem unwilling to allow him to see our sins so He can do His job.
Because we won’t let God into our dirty house, we are often afraid to enter into His, yet church is exactly where we should go if we’re sinners. It is a misconception that only the “pure of heart” will be found in church. The amazing thing about God’s house is that everyone there is a sinner and they all know it! As our pastor often reminds us, “Church is not a country club for saints but rather a hospital for sinners!”
We don’t have to clean up our act before we turn to Him; he will clean it up for us. All we have to do is uncover the filth and admit that we are sinners. Once we relinquish our sin, we just need to ask His forgiveness. We don’t need to be ashamed if we’re soiled; church is like a cleaning service for the soul. Jesus is waiting there for us, scrub brush in hand, ready to make us fresh and clean.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Absolution from “The Book of Common Prayer” (1952)]