During the Bible study I led this morning we discussed Jesus’ call to Matthew, the tax collector, to become a disciple. In this story we see one of the most hated types of people in Jesus’ day stand up, leave his wealthy life behind, and follow Christ. Then Jesus does something even more crazy – he goes to have dinner with Matthew and, most likely, other tax collectors and “seedy” folks from the day. The Pharisees had a field day with this and gave Jesus a hard time stating that Jesus should not be hanging with the “unclean” folks. Jesus then goes on to tell stories of the “lost” (lost coin, lost son, lost sheep) to help them see that God rejoices when those who are lost find God, so why are they not out reaching the “lost” such as these “unclean” folks they keep referring to? Something tells me the Pharisees were probably a bit irritated with Jesus at this point because you don’t hear much from them after that.
How often do we reach out to those in our society who are looked upon as “unclean,” “hated,” or viewed as one of those “undesirable” people? What would you do if a person came into your church with tattoos covering their body or looked as though they haven’t showered or brushed their teeth in weeks? How welcoming are we . . . really?
We have an amazing bass player here at our church – she is very talented and happens to be the daughter of our music director. This gal is young – probably 19 or 20, but has a spiked mohawk, dark black eye makeup, and dresses a bit like a “goth.” I think she’s amazing! I love her uniqueness and her ability to be comfortable in her own skin. I only wish I was like that at her age! She plays for us on some Sunday mornings and gives her time to serve God through music ministry, which is so great!
Recently, I had a church member come up to me after worship and say something to the effect of, “I think it’s appalling that we let a girl that looks like that be on our worship stage. It makes us look bad to visitors! Something needs to be done!” After I quickly tried to make sure my face didn’t display the horror I felt inside listening to those words, I responded something like, “Well, I for one think it’s wonderful that our church embraces all of God’s children no matter what they look like or how they style their hair or wear their clothes. I’m thrilled that she feels comforatable enough here to share her talents for the glory of God!” The church member wasn’t sure how to respond after that and just mumbled and walked away. I honestly have no idea if I’ve even seen the church member since, but I enjoyed this young girl’s bass playing last Sunday! She rocked it for God!
Now I don’t share that story with you to insinuate that the girl was “unclean” or that the church member was a bad person. Actually, both are Christians and dedicated church goers. Rather, I share that as a demonstration as to how we judge others based on what we see and how we see. If they are different than we are, we assume they are “unclean.” It’s kind of like my previous article about motorcycle riders – the assumption that they are all members of “Hells Angels” and drink and party every night. This girl has a style all her own, but that shouldn’t put her in an “unclean” category. And, yet, there she was.
When is the last time you had dinner with Matthew & Co.? Do you know someone or some people who need to know Christ but have been shunned by the Christian community? Is there someone at work that lives a lifestyle you don’t agree with but you know in your heart that you could help make a positive difference in their life? It’s not easy to do, but letting Christ shine through you to those who are lost can be a powerful thing. I encourage you to open yourself up to the possibility and be the hands and feet of Christ. Don’t judge others or assume they are a certain way based on what you see on the outside – let the Lord guide you and help lead those to Him who are lost.
Remember, Jesus calls those who are lost and uses us to find them:
But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9:13