Luke 15:1-2 (NLT)
15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people�even eating with them!
From Matthew Henry�s Commentary: Here multitudes of publicans and sinners drew near to him, with a humble modest fear of being rejected by him, and to them he found it requisite to give encouragement, especially because there were some haughty supercilious people that frowned upon them. The publicans, who collected the tribute paid to the Romans, were perhaps some of them bad men, but they were all industriously put into an ill name, because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office. They are sometimes ranked with harlots (Mt. 21:32); here and elsewhere with sinners, such as were openly vicious, that traded with harlots, known rakes. Some think that the sinners here meant were heathen, and that Christ was now on the other side Jordan, or in Galilee of the Gentiles. These drew near, when perhaps the multitude of the Jews that had followed him had (upon his discourse in the close of the foregoing chapter) dropped off; thus afterwards the Gentiles took their turn in hearing the apostles, when the Jews had rejected them. They drew near to him, being afraid of drawing nearer than just to come within hearing. They drew near to him, not, as some did, to solicit for cures, but to hear his excellent doctrine. Note, in all our approaches to Christ we must have this in our eye, to hear him; to hear the instructions he gives us, and his answers to our prayers.
I like Matthew Henry�s summary - in all our approaches to Christ we must have this in our eye, to hear him; to hear the instructions he gives us, and his answers to our prayers. When we listen to Christ and heed his instructions we begin to realize we must minister to those such as Christ did. We are told to encourage fellow Christians and keep each other accountable; but we are also to reach out to those who don�t know Christ. There are many good people who don�t know Christ. There are also many who are outwardly sinful even in the eye of those who are good non-Christians. Christ ministered to all of these.
Our duty as Christians is to reach out to people - even that one person who others may shun away from. Maybe that person is in jail. Maybe that person frequents bars. Maybe that person is homeless and survives in ways we would be critical of. Maybe the person has difficulties that make them unlovable. Yet we too are to find that one lost sheep and lead them to Christ. (Luke 15:3-7)
Some may find it uncomfortable reaching out to these people and may need the encouragement and support of fellow Christians. Sometimes it happens by accident. I once was placed at a restaurant bar because the restaurant was full and I was along. But then I found I wasn�t alone � there was a man sitting next to men who needed to be reassured about the love of Christ. We need to be willing to reach out and love these people and do so in a way that we remain open to the people but apart from the world. I wasn�t drinking at the bar where the man was drinking and amazingly he stopped drinking to talk with me and left his drink behind and untouched.
Look for opportunities to reach out to people. Reach out in love as Christ did and just love on people when they are hurting. Love on the unlovable so they can understand love. Love as Christ loves and your heart will overflow with joy.
To those who know Christ I love you and encourage you to keep loving The One who loved you first. To others I pray my love for you would show you what Christ looks like that you would love Him too!