By Les Henson.
For Jesus, no person was so messed up or so screwed up that they were beyond the reach of the gospel of the kingdom of God. In his encounter with the Pharisees at Matthew’s party, he responded to their vitriolic question: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” By saying: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31).
Jesus’ concept of the gospel was not the sanitised version of the Pharisees – the gospel for nice, cleaned up people who have it all together. No! Jesus understanding of this radical gospel was that it was for the messed up, the screwed up, and the unsanitised people of this world. It is a gospel for the leper, the prostitute, the corrupt tax collector, the adulteress, and the demon-possessed. It is also the gospel for the rich, the self-righteous, and the indifferent. Yet, it comes out looking somewhat different for them. If we are to reach out to the world and seriously engage people in our own time and place, then we need to be re-energised by a fresh realisation of the radical and comprehensive nature of the gospel.
We need to stop identifying with the self-righteous Pharisees and start doing mission among those who are so messed up and screwed-up that they will never quite fit into our nice, clean, comfortable churches. Like Jesus, we need to embrace a dysfunctional and to some degree, a highly disenfranchised generation. We need to befriend new agers, hipsters, techno heads, and those belonging to the Footie Club culture and the bowling club culture and everyone else in-between. We need to have and demonstrate real compassion for those who have been sexually, emotionally, and physically abused in our communities. We need to take seriously the needs of the poor in our communities and in a global world in which we live. We need not just to preach the gospel but live out this radically inclusive gospel, and yet we need to recognise that such engagement is very messy indeed.