During Jesus’ ministry, he often upset the religious
establishment of the day by extending love to people considered “unlovable.” As
in all societies, during Jesus’ day, there was the “in” crowd and the outcasts.
The “in crowd,” as characterized by the Pharisees and
Sadducees, was a group, smug about their goodness and holiness. They could make
a great show of treating each other well, but made no time for the lower
elements of society.
In contrast, Jesus spent most of his time with the outcasts.
He forgave a woman caught in the act of adultery. He treated a prostitute with
dignity and respect. He made friends with the much-despised tax collectors and with
others who were considered beyond the pale of polite society. He touched and
healed lepers – the ultimate outcasts of the day. Jesus found his closest
friends among the common working people of his day.
Jesus revealed that our human capacity to love, needs to be
extended beyond just those we know and like. He told his followers to pay
special attention to those whom society has rejected. In the parable of the
Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus identified with the suffering of
the sick, the loneliness of the prisoner and the plight of the poor. He told us
to help them, saying in verse 40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
That kind of love is contagious. It often brings out the
best in anyone who receives it or witnesses it. Jesus was remembered as a man
who “went around doing good,” Acts 10:38 tells us. Those who followed him after
his resurrection were soon called “Christians,” and it was not long before
their unusual way of life began to be noticed.
In hard economic times Christians were generous. When
plagues struck, Christians nursed the sick. When widows and orphans were left
to fend for themselves, Christians cared for them. Even though Christians were
often despised and persecuted, their lives of love also tended to prick the
consciences of those who knew about them, causing many to join them in their
labors of love.
We do the same today, but if our labor in Christ is to be
genuine, it should never be geared to draw attention to ourselves, or to get
people to come to our church. We don’t serve others to show them something
about us, but to show them something about them.
When we help the poor and the outcasts we let them know that they do matter and
that they are included in God’s love, no matter who they
are or what they have done.
Once we begin to understand that there is no place and no
person that God’s love does not reach, we can look at ourselves in a different
way, as God’s beloved children. We can also look at others in a different way. There is no “in” crowd or outcasts. Everyone matters, and everyone has been
included in God’s love. There is redemption for every person; all they have to
do is believe it and embrace it.
Maybe your life of
love and service in Christ will help them do that!
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.