Then as Jesus was reclining at the table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice ,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I am sure that many of us look back on the person we used to be with disbelief. Seeing how God has transformed us, and seeing how we live today, we simply cannot believe that we used to be that different. Sometimes we can forget who we were because God has brought us so far from there. For me, it was such a complete change of lifestyle that I lost many, many friends. When I look at who I was 14 years ago before salvation, I think that the man I am today would never talk to that guy. That guy is not someone with whom I would fellowship or whom I would like to call my friend. I know that guy, and he was evil and depraved. But then I have to stop myself and remember that Jesus invited that guy to sit at his feet. Jesus welcomed him home with open arms.
The above scene occurred shortly after Jesus asked Matthew to follow him, and Matthew accepted. I’m sure that at that time Matthew’s only friends were fellow tax collectors and others associated with them who were viewed as sinners by the Jews. If Jesus dined with Matthew, and Matthew wanted his friends to meet the man he was going to start following, then Jesus would be dining with tax collectors and sinners as well. When He did this, He was not accepting their sin. This was not a way for him to condone any of their behavior. What He was doing was reaching out to lost people because He came to seek and save the lost. If we feel that we are too good and too holy to even associate with those who are still mired in sin, then we cannot evangelize. We cannot lead others to Jesus Christ from afar. This process is up close and personal.
Although we are instructed not to be friends with the world, we can only reach the world if we have enough compassion to interact with it. We do not share in the sins of worldly people, but that does not mean that we only stay away from them. There are many who are ill with a common disease, and we know the cure they need. Do we heal the leper, or do we ostracise him? What did Jesus do? Jesus did what no one else would do, and he touched the leper. That interaction brought healing. Jesus reached out to the tax collectors and sinners because they were sick and dying, and He knew what would heal them. Father, give us the compassion to reach out to those lost in sin without judgment, and allow us the privilege of being able to lead others to the salvation we know.