And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
What is the difference between the way Jesus treated people and the way the Pharisees treated people? What is the difference between the way Jesus treats people and the way you treat people? “Why would you choose to associate with such people,” is basically the accusation against Jesus. He had called a publican to be His disciple. But what better way to reach other publicans? Jesus sat down to a meal with them. What better way to start a conversation, to build a relationship? It was Jesus’ habit to simply meet people where they were, to get to know them, to show an interest in them, and then give the gospel to them. Jesus wanted to help. He was a physician dispensing medicine to the sin-sick crowds with which He interacted.
The Pharisees could never reach anyone for God as long as they viewed themselves as too good to associate with the very people who needed Him the most. But Jesus did not have such an attitude. He was willing to associate with all kinds of people, to show grace and kindness, to take time for them. And honestly, we can all do that. Those things go a long way toward building relationships where we can then introduce people to Jesus and tell them of the love of a Savior, the cure of the Great Physician, the wonder of God’s mercy, and how they can have a relationship with Him, too.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to love those who others despised. He was willing to love me, to approach me, wretched sinner that I am, and offer His grace and forgiveness, to begin that relationship, to help me learn and grow and follow a different path. He can do the same for anyone who is simply willing to recognize their need for Him and what He can offer. And once we know Christ, may we be willing to reach out to anyone we can with the love of Christ.