Introduction

God has always intended His Church to be a place where all people are welcome, people of every background, race, upbringing, age, culture, and political perspective.  The Church is meant to be a people who demonstrate the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring together people who are nothing alike—people who otherwise might even hate each other—and unite them in love around the person of Jesus.

Have volunteers read Acts 2:21, Romans 1:16, and 2 Peter 3:9.

  •  When people walk through the doors of Eastside, what signs are presented through your words, actions, and demeanor?
    • Welcome!
    • I hope you have a great time.
    • If you’re lonely, I’m available to talk.
    • If you’re in need, I’m here to help.
    • If you’re questioning, I can help you find the answers.
    • If you’re stressed, this is a place of peace.
    • If you look, act, talk, think, vote, or believe differently than I do, I’m glad you’re here.
    • I’m too busy to talk.
    • You didn’t dress appropriately.
    • I’d prefer people like you not come here.
    • This isn’t a place for people with questions.
    • You need to figure out your own problems.

Understanding

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:36-49.

Saying this woman “was a sinner” or “lived a sinful life” was a nice way of saying that she was a prostitute.  And a prostitute would have been the last person welcome in the house of a strict religious leader like a Pharisee, but she walks in anyway.

She’s there to see Jesus, to give him a gift. She starts crying and she’s so emotional that her tears wet His dirty feet.  She’s been given no towel, so she starts wiping his feet with her hair. She doesn’t care about the religious pretense in the room because she was desperate.

Nothing breaks through pretension like desperation. She was not invited. She was not on the guest list. She wasn’t in the club. And she didn’t care!

  • When is a time you have taken a bold step out of desperation?

Too often those of us who have been following Jesus a long time think like Simon the Pharisee, “That person’s a sinner. We can’t let her near us.”

We don’t like it when someone comes to church smelling like alcohol or tobacco or weed.  We don’t like it when someone comes to church who is homeless or a prostitute or tattooed.

We forget that there are really only two kinds of people: sinners and Jesus.  If we’re not Jesus (and if you think you are, we have some great counselors to refer you to), we’re sinners.  And it’s only because of what God has done for us—not because we’re any better than anyone else—that our lives may look a little different.

  • Why do you think church people are often so judgmental of those who are different?

  • What group of people do you personally struggle to accept and why?

  • The truth is that as God’s people we are called to love and welcome everyone not just when we’re inside the four walls of an Eastside campus but in all of life.  How can you be more open to people who aren’t like you both at church and in your everyday life?

Have a volunteer read John 3:16.

Value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for an item.  It doesn’t matter what an appraiser says an item is worth or what you think it is worth.  What matters is what someone will actually give you for an item.

We look at some people and say, “You’re not worth the air you’re breathing.”  God looks at them and says, “I’ll pay for you with the price of my only Son.  That’s how valuable you are.”

Whether you love God or hate God, love the church or hate the church, if your picture of God is anything less than that of a God who loves you, you’ve got the wrong picture of God.

  • His love is for frat boys and girls gone wild. 

  • His love is for kids that have been showing up for Sunday school since they could breathe and for those who have never been through the door of a church.

  • His love is for those with special needs and victims of rape.

  • His love is for Hell’s Angels bikers, for gang members, for kids with 2 moms, for people who are counting their days clean and sober.

  • His love is for fire fighters, farmers, truck drivers, dishwashers, stockbrokers, single moms, rednecks and seminary graduates.

  • His love is for people with secret lives and stagnant faith.

  • It’s for politicians, factory workers, tattoo parlor owners, foster kids, and meth dealers.

  • His love is for families falling apart and families pretending they have it all together.

  • His love is for prostitutes looked down on by the religious elite.

God’s love is for everyone, and His love is for you.

  • Do you truly believe that God loves even those who do terrible, horrible things?

  • What is your reaction to the idea that God loves you no matter what?


Application

Have a meal this week with someone who is different from you, someone who makes you a little uncomfortable.  If deep down you’re honestly a little fearful or a little resentful of people of a different race, have lunch with someone from that race.  If you’re straight laced and don’t understand the guy covered head to toe in tats, have someone who has more ink than Bic over for dinner.

There’s no agenda here.  Don’t try to change anyone or fix anyone.  Don’t ask them why they are a certain way.  Don’t expect them to be a spokesperson for everyone who is black, white, Hispanic, gay, tattooed, pierced, rich, poor, homeless, etc.  Just get to know them as a person who Jesus loves.