Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other notorious sinners. (There were many people of this kind among the crowds that followed Jesus.) But when some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with people like that, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” Mark 2:15-17
It’s so easy to think that once you are a Christian, you are better, or at least you’re supposed to be. After all, isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why we go to church and why we get busy doing “Christian” things and hanging out with “Christian” people, so we’ll be better? We’ll be in a better environment? Isn’t that why we send our kids to “Christian” schools, so they will have better friends and not those scumbags that populate the public schools? Isn’t that the way we think? What’s wrong with thinking that way?
Thinking like this is a lie that puts salvation on the wrong foot and creates Pharisees out of followers of Christ.
What’s the point of becoming a Christian if it isn’t to lead others to Christ? Well who’s better able to lead sinners to Christ than other sinners? Do good Christian people attract sinners to Christ? I don’t think so. We always learned it was going to be good Christian people who would lead others to Christ, and that was why we were trying so hard to be those good people. People were going to be impressed by our “goodness” and want to be like us. That would give us the chance to tell them about Jesus. “Want to know why I’m better than you? Let me tell you …” No thanks. Even I don’t want to hear that speech.
Is the purpose of the gospel to populate the world with better people or to lead people to Christ? Isn’t it to lead people to Christ? And who better to lead people to Christ than other sinners? Call us Scumbags for Christ if you want. Come one; come all. There’s nobody not welcome, except as Jesus is quoted in Mark, “those who think they are already good enough.” And it’s not that those people aren’t welcome, too. They’re as welcome as anyone, but most likely they disqualify themselves by trying to be too good. They don’t want to be around scumbags for Christ. They want to be around good, respectable Christian people who have a sense of decency and the wherewithal to use it.
If anyone thinks they are better off than someone else, they are not fit to follow Jesus.
Has anyone ever noticed that Pig Pen is actually a dirty Charlie Brown? Maybe that was Charles Schultz’s message all along. Poor Charlie Brown, always trying to do the right thing and always messing up, and in need of a five cent consultation with Lucy to try and straighten himself out that only made things worse. Then along comes Pig Pen in a cloud of dust, just being Pig Pen. Welcome the real Charlie Brown.
It’s so much easier to befriend sinners when you are one too.