(This is the halftime devotional I gave at the Upward soccer games this morning.)
I'd like to share a short story from the Bible in the book of Matthew.
Back in the boat, Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus' hometown. They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, "Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins." Some religion scholars whispered, "Why, that's blasphemy!"
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, 'I forgive your sins,' or, 'Get up and walk'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . ." At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, "Get up. Take your bed and go home." And the man did it. The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.
Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, "Come along with me." Matthew stood up and followed him.
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?"
(And here we get to the important part!)
Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
One of the things I love most about Jesus, and one of the things that got Him killed, was that he loved everybody. He showed that he didn’t come to save stuffy, self-righteous church people – the people that thought they didn’t need Him. He came for the people who needed him – those people that the stuffy, self-righteous church people didn’t want around. So remember this – whether you’re someone who has a practice of going to church every Sunday, or you’re someone who has never stepped foot in church building. None of us are perfect, and you don’t have to be to come inside. God’s family has always been full of people who make mistakes – sometimes horrible mistakes. That’s why Jesus died – to save all of us.
(Story taken from Mt 9, from The Message.)