As a pastor of many years I see people come Sunday after Sunday to worship God in their Sunday best; hats, ties, dresses, and suits and of course smiles on their faces. At coffee hour they laugh and share the latest news and gossip. Yet underneath all of that I realize that these people are first and foremost sinners; people who have missed the mark. They have lacked love and care for the poor, neglected to share their personal possessions and resources, and have forgotten the greatest commandment to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They have fallen short. We often think of sin as the biggies; murder, adultery, or fornication. But its the small things that get in the way.
Greg Carey’s new book published by Baylor University Press is a focused look on Jesus and his followers. Its title, which is supposed to be provocative, is called Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers. We often have a saccharine view of Jesus, that he befriended good men and women who wanted to live according to the commandments and according to love. Yet we forget that Jesus’ friends were prostitutes, tax collectors, people who were unforgiving, Gentiles, and so forth. In other words most of us would not have been caught dead with Jesus’ friends! After all Christians are supposed to be “respectable.” Carey takes eight chapters and shows his readers what is really at the heart of the matter: that Jesus came to save sinners, which means you and me (even in our best Sunday dress or suit), and that we have eternal life in his name. Take and read Carey’s book, you won’t be disappointed.