Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Several years ago, I heard a story told by a pastor of a prostitute he happened to meet. She was so weighed down by life’s challenges she was contemplating suicide. After the pastor heard her out, he encouraged her as best he could before inviting her to come to church that Sunday. “Why would I want to do that?” she asked him. “I feel depressed enough already.”
The pastor felt very saddened because he understood why the woman said that. If she had accepted his invitation, she would probably have walked into a reception of open contempt and condemnation rather than receive the solace and comfort she sought.
I, too, felt extremely sad when I heard the story because I knew it wasn’t just this pastor’s story; almost every church is now filled with self-righteous and judgmental people who would be cold, if not hostile, towards “sinners” that walked into church.
If you really want to understand what I mean by this, just imagine your reaction if a drunkard reeking of alcohol, a prostitute recognizable as one, a drug addict in a state of narcotic stupor, or a ragged beggar were to walk into church for a worship service and sit right next to you. How would you react?
So what can be done? We can remind ourselves of why Jesus came to the world. He came here to save sinners. That’s us. And having been saved, it isn’t right if we exclude others, is it? On the contrary, we should be out there, helping Jesus save everybody out there.
So this year, let us be open the doors of our hearts - and of our churches - to everybody. And we will be blessed by it, ourselves.
And before you go, today’s reflection came right out of my introduction to the Parable of the Lost Coin from the latest issue of Cornerstone magazine. You can subscribe online at Magzter.com. Just search for Cornerstone.