Some of the unwanted of society put themselves in places of rejection from the society around them. After all, for most of us it would be hard to befriend someone who was friends of our enemies. Others of us may struggle to truly love people who make choices that are destroying their own lives.
In Jesus’ time the tax collectors, like Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), were considered by most locals to be the lowest of the low. First, they were siding with the enemy who ruled them, because their job was to collect taxes for Rome. Who would want to support the enemy after all. Second, the way the system was set up they could charge what they wanted and if they gave Rome what was demanded they could get rich off overcharges.
Jesus travels along the countryside talking to people of all walks of life. Then he takes the time to talk to these disreputable members of society. Not only that, but he goes and has dinner with them at their homes. The religious authorities saw this as a complete disgrace. After all, how could a religious leader dine with sinners of such known reputation?
This would be like a pastor today leaving the church to go to dinner with the local crime boss, or a known drug dealer. Most people in the town would look at them with disgust and question their motives. Before, you say that doesn’t happen today, I would argue it does.
I remember hearing of a minister who used to go during the week to a local bar to hang out and play darts with the locals. The people of his church became so angry that some eventually asked him to leave. They thought it was a disgrace that he would go to a bar.
I’ve heard a story (not sure if it’s true) about a minister being approached by an elderly woman who was angry. She accused him of having an affair with a woman that most thought was living wild and loose in the town. To stop the woman’s, gossip the minster started parking his car in front of the older woman’s home.
Early in my own ministry I was approached by a member of a neighboring church. She was very upset with her pastor. She said to me, “I saw him last week coming out of the local Casino.” God gave me quick wisdom and I answered her with a question, “So, what were you doing at the casino?” You see, our local casino was out in the middle of nowhere, and you had to go there to be there. The woman never answered my question.
Jesus was a friend to sinners, and that riled the religious elite. However, that friendship only started with His daily ministry. It came to completion in His love for us all. We don’t deserve the kind of love that is willing to have dinner with us, let alone die for our sins and penalties. Yet, Jesus loves us that much. He died on the cross for our sins, and God’s love reaches to the us no matter what we have done or where we are living in the world.
If you haven’t opened your heart to Christ’s love, why not take the time today. If you are a follower, why not take some time to reflect and thank God for all you are forgiven of today.