Only Luke contains what is for me the most emotionally moving passage in the entire Bible: the parable of the prodigal son.
Only Luke contains the story of hated Zacchaeus to whom salvation came when he climbed the tree in order to see Jesus more clearly.
Only Luke repeatedly shows hated Samaritans in a positive light and loved by God.
It is Luke who highlights loving portraits of women who came into contact with Jesus, whether it is Elizabeth, Anna, the widow of Nain, Susanna, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, or the weeping daughters of Jerusalem.
Luke is the great Gospel of the Friendless… the Gospel of the Outcasts… he paints a picture of Jesus as a Savior for all people, accessible to any who will approach him in faith.
One time Jesus called a tax collector named Levi to follow him. Luke tells us that the first thing Levi did was throw a party and invite all of his sinful friends. The religious leaders took issue that Jesus would attend such a party and asked him: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus response: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Later on in his Gospel, Luke records Jesus saying something similar: “for the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.”
Levi, Matthew, a hated sinner, found grace and transformation in Jesus. He was so excited he wanted to bring all his friends with him, so he had a party.
Sadly, far too many churches today are like the religious leaders: “why are you eating with sinners?”
Far to many churches focus on the healthy. Far too many youth pastors focus on the ‘leaders,’ the kids who already have great parents and have everything together. Far too many churches are obsessed with maintaining and pleasing the already-believing members.
The biggest sign of a healthy church is if it is filled with unhealthy people. Brennan Manning once wrote that the church isn’t supposed to be a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. May we always be a church who seeks those who are far from God. May we be a Church that hosts parties for sinners?
The Church is a community with a Gospel, a cure to the deepest malady of all: the sickness of sin. The Church must hold the believe that no one is beyond the grace of God.
It is our call to call the Levi’s of society, to pursue those hated by others and far from God, and to bid prodigals to come home to a loving Father. It is our call to stand on the porch and wait for them with eyes fixed on the horizon.
It is our call to have parties when they return home…
“I have come to call sinners to repentance…” Luke 5:32