One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m amazed at the righteousness many have had throughout their lives. Many of them are leaders in churches, missions and other various ministries of extraordinary impact. They accepted Christ at a young age and recognized God’s call to a particular mission in their life at which they may serve for most of their lives to great distinction. They are surrounded by people of great spiritual means and thoroughly networked. God has indeed raised them up to accomplish great things for his kingdom.

There are also people who have achieved great feats of righteousness and serve locally without distinction.

Sometimes I wish I was one. So far, my kids look to be these kind of Christians. Their worst sins amount to stealing cookies from a cookie jar. I call them “cookie jar Christians”.

There’s one drawback to cookie jar Christians.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

And we see that even Christ was able to help those who fell into sin.

Cookie jar Christians must know they are pretty righteous. How can they not? When confronted by a tender soul who has been crushed by a life of sin and pain, cookie jar Christians typically must condescend in order to minister at all. They often treat such people with an air of spiritual superiority and you know they can’t help but to know how much better they are than them. 

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I don’t intend to disparage cookie jar Christians. It’s wonderful that they are good enough that their focus is on helping others in the name of Christ, but there’s a point at which they have to recognize that they simply can’t relate to the struggle of someone who has been deep in sin.

However, some cookie jar Christians become a bit legalistic and refuse to help without some sign of repentance up front lest they become sullied in some way by associating with the sinner.

Most cookie jar Christians will be bold against the sins of the sinner, but not let up until repentance is gained. Thinking then that the job is done, they go about their business without taking the time to disciple the sinner. Busy Christians don’t have that kind of time to invest in someone, especially when the sinner is not one of their inner circle of cookie jar Christian friends.

When a cookie jar Christian commits to discipling a sinner, however, the difficulty lies in not being able to address the struggles of the flesh that a sinner can undergo. The cookie jar Christian just hasn’t had that experience. For example, a cookie jar Christian may tell a sinner to “just run to God!” (I’ve actually heard this advice given.) What does that even mean?

Then there are sinners who have been forgiven. I call these “broken Christians”. God uses people who have come from bad family situations, deep-seated patterns of sin, abuse, racial prejudice, difficult illnesses, war, or any of a multitude of things that break a soul. Christians who come from these situations may, over time, become no better than cookie jar Christians. They forget their past. In a way, a broken Christian can give thanks for healing. In another way, such scars allow a broken Christian to meet a sinner who has not come to Christ and see the hope of salvation for the sinner as a person not unlike the broken Christian once was.

God uses broken Christians to work the difficult parts of the field in the harvest. They may not reap the apparently best stuff like the cookie jar Christians. However, their toil is of great value for they do it at the Master’s behest and with his tender care for the harvest.

I write this to encourage my fellow broken Christians to use this gift to reach those like you once were.

But if you are a cookie jar Christian, I know it is difficult for you because you are superior in holiness to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are broken Christians, but I urge you to support and encourage them in their ministerial endeavors. Do not marginalize them or relegate them to the lower places in the church leadership, but learn from them what it is to love a sinner like Christ did.

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