Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Outreach to the Outcast
Life of Jesus
Many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Jesus specifically sought out those who were unacceptable in his society to eat with them and to teach them and to call them to be disciples. Although he taught those who were upstanding in Galilean society, he said that his purpose was to bring those who are sinning back to the Father. So his main purpose in his ministry was to connect with and teach the outcast—those who were unacceptable to conservative society.
"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Some were complaining about Jesus associating and accepting the outcast from Jewish society. In parables, Jesus taught that he is reaching out to those who should be entering the kingdom, but fell away from God because of their sin. He calls these people “lost”. So Jesus is just calling back those who were originally in God’s way, and that when they return, there is more rejoicing over that return than for many who remained with God their whole lives.
Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
Jesus uses another parable to contrast the conservative religious Jews and the sinners who began to follow Jesus. It is better, Jesus is saying, for a person to refuse to obey and then to change their minds than to be one who agrees to obey and changes their minds. The sinners are those who did evil, but then decided to come and remain with Jesus. But the conservative religious folks are those who claim to be doing God’s will but never actually do.
Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Zaccheus is an example of one of the lost. He was living in sin—he was cheating some of his fellow Jews out of their money in order to line his own pockets. And he was wealthy, so he didn’t need the money. But he realized his sin and so desperately sought Jesus out. Jesus agreed to accept him, and there was grumbling about this by the conservative religious folks. But Zaccheus shut them up by speaking of his actions of repentance. At this point, Jesus declared that Zaccheus was fully accepted into the family of God.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.
No matter who comes into church—no matter how insignificant they are, no matter how bad they act or smell—we need to be accepting to them. If they lead other people to sin, then we need to separate them out. But otherwise we need to accept them and treat them as well as we would treat the president if he arrived. We are to give everyone good treatment, showing that they are welcome to come to God.
I Corinthians 9:19-23
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
Not everyone is called to be an evangelist. Not everyone is called to specifically reach out to those who are unacceptable. But for those of us who are, we are to become servants, workers, slaves for those whom we are called to. We need to put their needs first and establish what they need so that we can try to meet it, according to our resources and abilities.
• Phillip left proper Jewish society and reached out to those who were considered “heretics” and “a cult”—the Samaritans. Phillip did not tell them how evil they were, he just explained the opportunity they had to enter the kingdom of God through Jesus. Many Samaritans took the opportunity to come to Jesus. Phillip was also the first person to give the gospel to an Ethiopian, about whom no one knew much.
• John Wycliffe was a professor at Oxford. Bible education was something only for the wealthy because it was considered that the poor couldn’t properly understand it. But Wycliffe determined that the Bible taught that the gospel should be given to the poor and so he started holding classes for the poor in English. When a peasant riot occurred, Wycliffe was blamed because of his teaching. Nevertheless, he continued to teach the poor.
• William Booth lived in England near the turn of the 20th century. He determined to do two things—to teach of how to live the holiness of God and to reach out to the poor. He and his wife Catherine called many people to dedicate their lives to live for those who were considered unacceptable in their society. They started the organization known as the Salvation Army which is still today a church and an organization that assists the poor.
Living It Out
• Don’t show favoritism
No matter what race, religion, or past experience, everyone has an equal chance to come to God and be accepted by him. Let us not do anything that stands in the way.
• Go out of your way to welcome the unacceptable
People who are not accepted by society should be given preference so that they can come to the Lord.
• Do all you can to accept and help brothers and sisters who are unacceptable by mainstream society
Churches today reject many people who do not look like them or act like them, even if people are not strictly involved in sin. Mainstream churches have a hard time accepting the mentally ill or homeless. But we must go out of our way to accept and help those who don’t look or act in a “proper” manner, but they are still doing all they can to follow the Lord.
• No matter how sinful someone is, give them the opportunity to repent
Don’t write people off just because they have a lifestyle of sin or have rejected the Lord in the past. Anyone can come to the Lord anytime—it is a matter of the Lord softening their heart and they receiving his gift of faith. Keep giving people the opportunity to come to the Lord, even if it seems like they never would.