"Many of us in our churches think of ourselves as living upright and outstanding lives as faithful Christian women and solid Christian men, and that, therefore, God is going to accept us. He will not! All of us need to hear the law of God, taught frequently and powerfully, so that we may be convicted of sin and come to understand our continuing need for Christ.
Jesus preaches the gospel of forgiveness to those who seem farthest away from God: the prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, and Samaritans. Today, our equivalent would be perhaps prostitutes, drug addicts, gang members, homosexuals, adulterers, corrupt business people and politicians, and any others whom we think of as being hopelessly wrong in their beliefs and lifestyles. These people have already graduated from the school of sin, and are often deeply aware of their need and shame. It is to the people who seem farthest from truth and righteousness that Jesus preaches the good news of salvation with the utmost grace and gentleness.
This may seem completely wrong to us, a kind of upside-down world. Think of attitudes in our society as well as our attitudes often found within the church: “Condemn the poor, the weak, the sinners! Commend the rich, the powerful, the upright!” Jesus, however, does precisely the opposite."
- Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, p. 146
But Jesus was a different kind of holy man and teacher. We have already seen that Jesus did not seek to keep apart from sinners. He also did not turn sinners away. Jesus did not abuse sinners, single them out for condemnation, or avoid them. Rather, he was a teacher who spoke words of comfort and grace to them, a teacher who showed them such respect, honor, and love that many of them responded by happily turning away from their sin. This, of course, was what happened in the life of Zacchaeus. Grace and mercy are a far more effective means of creating love and devotion than condemnation. A new affection for Christ has a much greater power to drive out sin and bring lasting repentance than any sermon on moral improvement, or any program for straightening out one’s life.
- Jerram Barrs, Learning Evangelism from Jesus, p. 10