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Sunday, June 3, 2018

EATS with SINNERS: LOVING LIKE JESUS by Arron Chambers



Published in 2017 by NavPress

The title of the book comes from a passage in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke. In the previous chapter, Jesus ate with Pharisees (a Jewish sect that prided themselves on their strict adherence to all of the religious rules of the day) and told them not to be too prideful as they picked their seats for this "dinner party". In Chapter 15, we come across this passage:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV translation)

Jesus makes two points. The most obvious to the modern reader is the story. It is clear that he is saying that you have to reach out to the lost in order to find the lost. The shepherd does not find the lost sheep by sitting around wondering where it is - he seeks it out. He follows it up with two more stories with the same point, including the famed story of the Prodigal Son.

But, lost to most modern readers is the complaint: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Should "good" church people hang out with people that aren't "good" church people? What was Jesus doing hanging out with the unrighteous? Why was this rabbi eating with them like they were his equals?
Jesus' answer? He told three stories that make it clear that you have to seek the lost and welcome them when they come back to the fold. That means go out and engage the world where it is. And, those that would be righteous have to remember that they aren't so perfect, either.

One of the common refrains of the book is that if you want to bring Christ to the people you actually have to go out to the people. Pretty simple, huh? Well, the book goes into more detail than that, but it is still pretty simple.
Now, how do you do that? Chambers eschews the idea of going out and screaming at people, as some street preachers like to do (p. 35). Instead, he looks at the example of Jesus. "Jesus didn't yell at lost people. He ate with lost people." (p. 36) Who listens to people who yell at them without even knowing them? No one. But, you just might listen to someone who shares sits down with you and gets to know you.
This book is designed to be used as a Bible study as well. I think it would be an excellent small group study. It would also be good as a tool to get a whole congregation to re-think how they approach outreach.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: Eats with Sinners: Loving Like Jesus.

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