Lesson 7

Jesus and the Social Outcasts

(Luke 15, 1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 21, Mark 5, John 4)
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Introduction: Recently, I heard of a Christian singer who walked out of the Grammy Awards. I said to myself, "Good for her." I had watched part of the show and was unhappy that instead of sticking to music, some of the participants chose to promote evil. This past Sabbath my pastor pointed to what this Christian singer had done and asked, "What would Jesus have done?" I thought, "I need to reconsider my prior attitude." One way I decide what I should do is to ask myself, "Will this promote evil or will this promote the Kingdom of God?" This Christian singer took a stand by saying that she would not be a part of the promotion of evil. On the other hand, Jesus seemed to constantly be hanging around with evil-doers. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what lessons we can learn!

  1. Gathering Evil


    1. Read Luke 15:1-2. Would you like sinners to come to your church to hear the gospel?


      1. What point do you think the religious leaders were making? (They were concerned that Jesus was promoting sin by associating with sinners. Those gathering around were social outcasts.)


      2. Were the religious leaders concerned about status or sin?


      3. Aside from the regular members, do sinners flock to your church? What about social outcasts?


      4. Do we have a problem if sinners or social outcasts do not gather at our church to hear the gospel? Is the problem that we have the attitude of the religious leaders in this story?


    2. Read Luke 15:3-7. Jesus tells this story to illustrate why it is good for sinners and tax collectors to come to hear the gospel. What is Jesus' point? (The unrighteous need to be converted, not the righteous. How can you convert the unrighteous unless you seek them?)


      1. Does this answer the question about what the Christian singer should have done at the Grammy Awards?


        1. What if sinners held a meeting to celebrate sin, and a Christian came to hear them? Have we reversed the facts of Jesus' sheep story?


        2. If we have, should this change our conclusion?


    3. Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. What does Paul say about associating with sinners? (If we live in the world we must associate with pagans.)


    4. Read 1 Corinthians 5:11. What standard does Paul apply to the issue of associating with sinners? (He says don't associate with sinners who claim to be Christians.)


      1. Wait a minute! Everyone in my church is a sinner (including me)! What is Paul's point? (Paul's concern is about harming the gospel. If you make no pretense about God, then I can associate with you. But, if you say you are promoting God, but you promote Satan instead, then I should not associate with you.)


    5. Read 1 Corinthians 5:12-13. Why expel the sinner? Doesn't the sinner need to be in church? Why should we expel one sinner when we are encouraging other sinners to attend church? (The only thing that makes sense to me is to ask, "What is this person doing to the church and to the gospel?" The sinners who came to Jesus wanted to learn something better. They wanted to change. The sinner in the church who promotes sin, who wants to lead people away from the gospel, needs to be tossed out.)


    6. Let's revisit our Christian singer at the Grammy Awards. Now what do you think she should have done? (Clearly the Grammy Awards represent "the people of the world" and not the church. Paul says that we should expect them to promote evil.)


      1. What about the principle that we should expel from church those who promote evil? The idea is that Christians should not promote evil, and therefore this Christian singer could say, "My influence here promotes evil - because people will say I approve of this."


    7. I'm still uncertain about the right answer here. Let's turn next to several stories about Jesus to see if we can sharpen our thinking!


  2. Tax Collectors Ahead


    1. Read Matthew 21:28-30. Which son did what his father wanted?


    2. Read Matthew 21:31-32. Jesus asks the same question I just asked you. How do you think Jesus answers this question? (Jesus agrees that performance is more important than words.)


      1. How are tax collectors and prostitutes doing "what the father wanted?" If performance is what our Father in heaven wants, how can Jesus equate prostitutes with the son who agreed to work? (Look again at Matthew 21:29 and Matthew 21:32. We see that the good son "changed his mind." The tax collectors and prostitutes "repent and believe.")


    3. Read Matthew 21:33-39 and Matthew 21:45. The religious leaders know that Jesus is talking about them! What kind of attitude do they have towards Jesus? (They are hostile. They want to kill Him.)


    4. Let's put these two stories together. What is the complete picture of the tax collectors, tenants, prostitutes and religious leaders? (The religious leaders say the right words, but they are hostile to Jesus. They do not believe or repent. The tax collectors and prostitutes used to say and do the wrong thing, but they change their mind, repent and obey God.)


    5. What kind of tax collectors and prostitutes should we voluntarily associate with? (Those who seek truth, who are not hostile to the gospel.)


    6. What kind of sinners should we not voluntarily associate with? (Those who say they are following the truth, but who are hostile to the gospel.)


    7. One more time, the Grammy Awards! Did the Christian gospel singer do the right thing? (Considering the texts we have read, I think the answer is "yes." It is true that she was in the world, and not in the church, but she was in the middle of a program where some of the participants were making the argument that sin is morally right. They were evangelizing for sin!)


  3. Discerning Hostility


    1. Read Mark 5:1-5. Is this fellow dangerous? How would you like him living in your neighborhood?


    2. Read Mark 5:6. Don't miss this, "from a distance, he ran" towards Jesus. How would you feel if he was running directly towards you?


      1. We discussed pagans who are hostile to the gospel as opposed to those who are coming to hear the gospel. Our conclusion was that we should resist those who are hostile. How would you classify this fellow when he was in the running phase? (Not just hostile, but incredibly dangerous! We might have to reconsider our prior conclusion!)


    3. Read Mark 5:7. Now that you hear what this man says, would consider him hostile? (He acknowledges who Jesus is, and asks Jesus not to hurt him!)


      1. What does the contrast between the man's actions and his words teach us? (We need to be careful about who we classify as being hostile.)


    4. Read Mark 5:8-12. What is the problem with this fellow? (He is demon-possessed.)


      1. Are the enemies of the gospel demon-possessed?


    5. Read Mark 5:18-20. What does this teach us about the possibility for people who seem hostile to the gospel? (Leaving to one side the question of whether they are involuntarily or voluntarily in tune with Satan, this shows the great potential for someone who leaves Satan's camp.)


  4. Simple Outcasts


    1. Read John 4:7-9. What was the obvious social differences between Jesus and this woman? (She was both a Samaritan (a Jew of mixed blood) and she was a woman.)


      1. Is she hostile to Jesus? (Somewhat.)


    2. Read John 4:13-18. It is odd that this woman comes to the well by herself. Her background tells us why - she was a moral outcast. She is not just a Samaritan and a woman, but she is even rejected by Samaritan women! What is the lesson for us? (The gospel is for everyone. No one is too "low.")


    3. Friend, we need to be aware of our influence, and we need to be alert to the adverse influence of sinners in the church. However, the stories of Jesus' life show us that we are here to save everyone. No one is unworthy of the gospel. Will you put this into action in your life?


  5. Next week: With the Rich and Famous.

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