John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Luke 15:1-2 1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Rachel Scott was the first of 13 people to be killed at the infamous Columbine High School shooting in 1999. She made a decision to live unashamedly for Christ and His Gospel, and she was targeted and killed BECAUSE she was a Christian.
Rachel was a typical teen. She had struggles. She dealt with the difficulty of divorce as her parents split. She had trouble fitting in at school. She wrestled with temptations and the peer pressure to drink, smoke, to be sexually active, and to put down others in order to fit in with the “cool crowd.” She had a crush on a cool senior and for a long time she kept her devotion to Christ a secret from him because she thought it would jeopardize her relationship with him.
Ultimately, however, Rachel realized and embraced her life’s purpose. It was to extend the compassion of Jesus to all people regardless of the cost. She began reaching out to all kinds of people. She reached out to a young homeless guy who became a Christian and became like a big brother to her; someone who actually helped point her back to Christ and her calling to be His witness at one point. She reached out to a punk rocker kind of girl whose mom, along with her mom’s live-in boyfriend, were alcoholics. That girl eventually became a believer. Rachel reached out to a special needs young man who was a constant target for the high school bullies. She made plans to spend time with him. She befriended a girl in the school cafeteria who was made fun of because of the way she dressed. She took time to talk to a boy whose parents were going through a divorce and he needed someone to talk to. In one scene, we see Rachel offering forgiveness to a girl, a former best friend, who had stabbed her in the back. Rachel Scott was the real deal.
A chain reaction of compassion began once she actually publicly declared she was a Christian and a young athlete in the class where she shared her testimony approached her after her speech to let her know that he too, was a Christian. She encouraged him to put his faith in action by helping to look out for the special needs young man who was the target of the school bullies. He agreed to help. Rachel didn’t just share a speech in her class at school where she professed her love for Christ, but she lived it out and found practical ways to touch people for Jesus’ sake. Rachel even witnessed to the Columbine shooters, the ones who eventually took her life.
“You know I do.” What a powerful confession for a young girl who was already wounded. She already knew these two classmates weren’t playing. They had shot her once. Nothing would keep them from shooting again. Interesting that she didn’t say, “I do.” She said, “You KNOW I do.” She had lived out her faith so that it was known. It was seen. They didn’t need her to answer. They already had witnessed the answer. Rachel lived a different life; a life of distinction, compassion, love, generosity and courage. They knew it.
In her diary, Rachel wrote, “I lost all my friends at school, now that I’ve begun to ‘walk my talk,’ they make fun of me…But you know what? I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus. I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything I will.”
On April 20, 1999, Rachel did just that.
It was the many entries in Rachel’s journal about her relationship with God and her love for others that enabled the screenwriter to write the script for the movie that has been seen by millions of people. People continue to be impacted by Rachel’s courage and compassion, and countless people have come to Christ through her life’s witness.
What I want to submit to you this morning is that Rachel Scott didn’t just fall in love with Jesus, (or fall in love with church) but she also fell in love with His mission. You see, we can’t truly live unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus if we aren’t willing to live as Jesus did. To live unashamed means that we not only believe the Gospel, but that we are willing to live it out. To me, Rachel’s confession at the end of her life, that she still believed in God, was one level of courage, but the way she reached out to all people, regardless of who they were or what their life’s challenges were, told me she really did believe in God. She didn’t just say it; she lived it. It was her living faith that made her dying confession so powerful.
When you and I are unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will begin to love people the way Jesus loved people. I have one big question for us this morning. Do we love as Jesus did?
Do we realize this morning that the people Jesus called to follow him were sinners and outcasts? They weren’t the upstanding. They weren’t the standouts. They were the commoners, the low-life’s and the people who everyone else had overlooked.
When Jesus was developing his inner circle, He purposely chose some controversial people. He purposely befriended some known sinners to bring into His band of disciples. Take the calling of Matthew, for example. Matthew was a tax collector. He was considered a traitor by the Jewish people. He worked for Rome and lined his personal pockets at the same time by charging more taxes than people actually owed. Tax collectors weren’t welcomed folk in the synagogues. No upstanding Jew would be seen associating with one of them. And Jesus walked right up to him and said, “Matthew, come follow me.” And this guy, someone other Rabbis avoided, closed up shop and followed Jesus.
Can you picture the shock of the other disciples? It would be like me saying I needed a new staff member and rather than look on the Church of God job finder website to rifle through resumes’, I decided to recruit someone from the strip clubs or someone from a drug cartel. That is the wild approach Jesus took to recruiting His inner circle. Do you think he was trying to make a point?
You see, when Jesus reached out to call people, He never saw what they were, but He saw what they could become. And that very night, Matthew 9 tells us that Matthew had a big dinner party and invited all of his low-life friends so they could go from low-life and no-life to abundant life in Christ. Jesus saw Matthew’s need for salvation and He also saw Matthew’s potential to reach others for the Kingdom!
We may SEE the sinner and hand them a bottle of water or offer them a free haircut or give them clothes which is wonderful and needed. But do we, like Jesus, invite them into our inner circle? Food for thought, right?
On another occasion, we see in Luke 7 where Jesus went to have some dinner with a Pharisee. I’m thinking Jesus was Church of God because we often read about Him eating with people. ? Anyway, He was invited to a Pharisee’s home. The Pharisee’s name was Simon. Jesus supposedly would have been a guest of honor in Simon’s home, however, there was no “guest of honor” welcome for Him that night. No one anointed His head with oil. No one offered a kiss of greeting. No one washed His feet. Imagine thinking you are the guest of honor someone and attending with the idea that you will be made to feel welcome only to basically be insulted by the lack of the welcome when you got there. That is what was going on!
During the dinner, something happened to not only call Simon out, but to show how much Jesus loves the sinners and outcasts:
Luke 7:36-50 36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.
Skip to verse 44:
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Don’t miss Jesus’ strategic question in verse 44: Simon, “Do you SEE this woman?” Of course, Simon could see her, but he didn’t see her the way Jesus did. One difference between the Pharisee and Jesus is the way they viewed and treated people.
The Pharisee was focused on the woman’s sin. Jesus saw her heart. He saw her need for forgiveness. Do we see people’s needs? Do we look into people’s hearts?
Jesus not only reached to sinners, but to outcasts as well. How many of you know that sometimes being sinful can make you popular in some circles? Sometimes doing the wrong thing can get you a pat on the back by your friends. Jesus went to another level when He took time for people that no one wanted to talk to. The Pharisees or the righteous wouldn’t befriend them and not even the known sinners would befriend them, but Jesus took time for them. They were the unloved and the untouched in their day.
There was the Samaritan Woman. She wasn’t only a labeled sinner, but she was a Samaritan, someone considered to be an enemy of the Jews. John 4 tells us that Jesus went out of His way, walked out of His way, and took time to have an extended conversation with the woman. He chose to meet up with her. It isn’t just that He happened to be passing her way and then had a decision to make about whether or not to stop and talk with her, but He chose to get involved with her and went way out of His way to do it.
This sinful woman, this outcast became the first missionary in Samaria as she went to share with others in her town about the love of Jesus.
Jesus extended Himself to lepers, the unclean, the isolated and cut-off in their day. Luke 5:12-13 12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Apparently, this wasn’t the early stages of leprosy. This condition hadn’t just begun. This man, the text says, was covered with leprosy. Others who would have seen him would have run away from him. Jesus not only didn’t run away, but He drew even closer to the man, close enough to touch Him. How close are we willing to get to those who have been discarded by and disenfranchised from society?
How about those at the bottom end of society? Those who were called the poor-those who begged for a living? Jesus had compassion on the poor. He cared for those who were impoverished. It wasn’t ok with Him that people didn’t have enough to eat. It wasn’t ok with Him that they didn’t have what they needed. Jesus’ opening speech at the beginning of His ministry is recorded in Luke 4. His speech began with a word about those who were considered to be poor. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”
Look at this stunning Scripture in Luke 14:13-14 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed.”
Jesus wants His followers to target people with a need, people without friends, people who need help, people who no one else will take time to see and talk to.
To be unashamed of the Gospel is to witness about Christ, but it is also to love sinners, to welcome the outcasts, and to care for the poor.
Think about your social scenes right now. Who can you picture there? In your mind’s eye, as you picture your last bonfire, your last feast, your last party… Were there any sinners invited? Were there any outcasts on the guest list? Were there any impoverished around your table?
Can we love people like Jesus did, right where they are? Can we allow them to experience Jesus through us so that He can transform their lives and make them into the people He knows they can become? So many times in Scripture we read that Jesus was moved with compassion. Rachel Scott said in the movie that compassion and forgiveness could change the world. She was right. They have and they will continue to if we allow others to encounter Christ through us.
To love Jesus is to live out His Gospel in such a way that people KNOW we love Him and not just that they know we say we do. If someone backed you into a corner regarding your faith in Jesus and asked you if you loved Him, would you be able to say like Rachel Scott, “You KNOW I do?” Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let’s live UNASHAMED!