July 18 I Saturday
“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him....When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” —Mark 2:15-16
When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, Matthew knew it was not just a call into relationship but a call also into mission. This is why Matthew sets right to evangelism and throws a huge dinner party inviting all his tax collecting and sinner friends. The
label “sinner” was anybody who was put out of the synagogue by the Pharisees because of their immoral lifestyle and choices or deformities and sickness. Yet, where do we find Jesus at this dinner party? Jesus was not social distancing Himself from the unclean and sinful; he was right at the heart of this party.
As Christians, we can get to this place in our lives where we are surrounded by people who believe the same thing as us. There is nothing wrong with us gathering and fellowshipping together; we are encouraged in Scripture to congregate together. But there could be a time when we are living within a Christian bubble and do not have any meaningful relationships or friendship with people who do not believe the same thing as us.
There was a prominent church in a city among a difficult community with a lot of homeless people. The pastor and the ministry team started a feeding program for these people. As the program grew and engaged many homeless people, they started to go to the service on Sunday mornings. One of the deacons did not like these people coming to the service and said to the Pastor, “Do these people have to be here with us? Can’t they have their own special service?” This was coming from a place where the deacon was uncomfortable sitting beside someone who had not showered for a while and possibly had some mental health issues. The pastor answered, “Well, I think everybody should have a chance to meet Jesus face to face.” The deacon responded, “So do I, but I think it’s better if they have their own special service.” Then the pastor said to the deacon, “I wasn’t talking about those guys. I was talking about you.”
Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:35, 40). When we care for people on the fringes of society—the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable—we are loving and caring for Jesus Himself. Jesus is described as a friend of sinners because He was friends with the hurting, the broken and the rejected. Are we a friend of sinners?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming into this world for the hurting, the broken and the rejected. May I never become too haughty to associate myself with others different from me and be a friend of sinners.