There are folks who would like to have a sanitized church made up primarily of people pretty much like them. People of a similar professional, social, economic, educational and ethnic background. They don’t like the idea of being around people with a really wicked past, so they’re certainly not going to personally reach out to such people with the gospel.
Two points of truth demonstrate how flawed such thinking is. First, Jesus came to this world specifically to call sinners- all sinners- to repentance. He personally carried the gospel message to wicked sinners. In the Great Commission He commanded us to carry the gospel to everyone everywhere, including the worst of the worst (Mk. 16:15-16).
Second, folks who don’t want to associate with those whom they consider to be lesser people need to realize that they themselves came out of wickedness, only by God’s grace, as they were baptized into Christ. Outside of Christ, “There is none righteous, no, not one;” (Rom. 3:9).
Jesus spoke pointedly to this issue in Matt. 9:9-13. In this text we find Jesus calling Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him. Matthew obeyed his Lord. He would ultimately be named as one of Jesus’ apostles, and he would write the gospel account that bears his name.
Being a tax collector, Matthew was of a profession that was despised by the Jewish people of his day. It was not so much that they did not like paying taxes, it was the common knowledge that tax collectors of that society were a corrupt lot. They contracted with the Roman government to collect a set amount of taxes within a given territory. Whatever they collected above the specified sum was theirs to keep. Such an arrangement provided the opportunity for great corruption, and, for the most part, the tax collectors took advantage of the opportunity.
Matthew gave a great feast for Jesus, and he apparently invited many of his colleagues. The scribes and Pharisees challenged the disciples of Jesus as to why He would eat with such sinners. Jesus responded by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. …For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (vs. 12-13).
The answer Jesus gave is one of logic. He came to this world in order to seek and to save the lost souls of mankind (Lk. 19:10). How can that be effectively done without going to sinners and attempting to teach them the gospel message? Of course, what the scribes and Pharisees did not understand was that they, too, were as guilty of sin and as much in need of a Savior as were all of those tax collectors gathered in Matthew’s house. How many of those tax collectors do you suppose might have become followers of Jesus? What would have been the likelihood of that happening had Jesus not gone to them with the gospel? How would Matthew have become an apostle and written his gospel account if Jesus had not gone to sinners in order to teach them?
Our mission as the church is to proclaim the gospel to the lost everywhere (Mk. 16:15-16). We cannot expect them to come to us, we must reach out to them. We must teach them about their spiritually lost condition and how they can be forgiven and saved. In order to teach them, we’ll have to put ourselves within earshot of them. If we expect sinners to stop sinning before we allow them into our presence, we’ll influence precious few to leave their lifestyles of sin. In order to change them, we must teach them, and to teach them, we must be willing to go to them...
Gary L. Hutchens