“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Can you imagine the reactions of the religious leaders when Jesus tells them that hated tax collectors and prostitutes would go into the kingdom of God before them. In the story he likens them to people who merely give lip service to God and the 'sinners' as those who have a change of mind and repent. He chides them implying that their hearts should have been softened at the sight of 'sinners' repenting in baptism. He speaks to them, and to us, about going past lip service.. about loving the unlovable.
And such is the challenge before us today. Loving hurting souls who appear so unlovable. Caring for those who have been abused and mistreated. Embracing people who are so different than we are. The opportunity is before us to be, like Jesus, and embodiment of a different sort of person. A person whose heart breaks when others suffer. A person who, with the angels, rejoice when people repent. A person who goes past mere lip service and compassionately does the will of our Father.
Open my eyes to those who are hurting Lord. Help me to pray for and encourage them.