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November 3 – “Godly” grumblers

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:2

Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 9:9-13

A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates a feature on your face – say, your nose or ears – to make you look ridiculous. We caricature the Pharisees and scribes in our minds, then roll our eyes at them.

However, the Pharisees and scribes treasured the Bible in a world that trashed it. They copied it carefully. They struggled to preserve the ancient faith in a culture that undermined it. They called God’s people to trust, love and serve Him as those set apart from the world. With Isaiah, they said, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing…” (Isaiah 52:11a). With James, they might have said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4b).

Today, too, our culture’s worldview is infecting the church. The Pharisees and scribes would say, “Maintain social distancing. Separation is the key to reformation.”

Jesus did not practice social distancing. He welcomed the tax collectors and “sinners” into His life. He spent time with them. He accepted their dinner invitations and enjoyed their hospitality. That’s why the Pharisees and scribes grumbled about Him. In their view, He put Himself and the church at risk for spiritual infection.

They had forgotten God’s vision and heart for the lost. God saves and sets us apart from the world so that the world might be drawn to Him through us. How will this happen if we practice social distancing? Does this involve risk? Yes. But Jesus overcomes those risks.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God that He saved you and set you apart from the world. Pray for wisdom to be in the world yet not of the world so that others might be drawn to Christ through you.

Rev. Richard Zekveld is the pastor of the Covenant Fellowship Church (PCA) in South Holland, Illinois, a Chicagoland suburb. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

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