Loving people where they are…

How did Jesus reach people?
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matthew 11:19 (ESV)

During His earthly life Jesus of Nazareth was known as a friend of sinners. The strictest observers of the Word of God accused Him breaking God’s law by hanging around with bad people. Were they right?

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9:9-11 (ESV)

There are many Christian ministers today who will organise missions and outreaches. Some will invite drug addicts and prostitutes to come to Christian meetings. Why? To preach the gospel and save sinners.

But Jesus went a step further, a very big step further. He accepted invitations to eat and drink with the worst sinners in their own homes. If a notorious gangland boss invited Jesus to a party with underworld people, would Jesus go?

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus not only preached to sinners. He went to their homes and their dinner parties.

Does that mean that Jesus was always available for every invitation from any crook in town? No. King Herod was impressed by the stories of the miracles of Jesus and he wanted to see this new “celebrity” but Jesus avoided him. Luke 9:9 (NKJV)

There are some major Christian leaders today who are campaigning against human trafficking for sex slavery. They are actually going to pick up bars and houses of prostitution to make friendly contact with prostitutes and even sometimes with pimps.

There are many hard core sinners and oppressed victims who cannot be reached by preaching but only by believers who dare to do what Jesus did, seek out the lost sheep in the dark places and reach them with genuine friendliness.

I have seen Joyce Meyer on Christian TV, talking to a poor Indian prostitute in her work place. English born minister, Kathie Walters goes out into the streets of American cities to talk to prostitutes. In one city she found that many of the young girls were from Pentecostal Christian homes. After sharing the love of Jesus with them, many turned to God, perhaps for the first time, and many returned to their families.

There was a young homosexual prostitute in Chile who was dying of AIDS. Many people would visit his hospital ward to mock and abuse the dying addicts and homosexuals. But one visitor was different. She was an old woman filled with the Spirit of Jesus. She went to this young man with compassion. She prophesied healing and restoration and he believed. He was raised up by the power of God and completely healed.

His testimony reached many in the hospital including doctors who turned to Jesus. The doctors offered finance and help to plant a Pentecostal church nearby. Over time, the young man was restored in every way. He got married and began a ministry by sharing his testimony with many homosexuals, prostitutes and addicts.

But isn’t it dangerous to mix with sinners?

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV)

I believe this is one reason that Jesus sent out His disciples TWO BY TWO.

The Apostle Paul was single himself but he usually went on a mission with at least one partner in ministry. At various times these included Barnabas, Timothy, Silas and Luke. With the help of the grace of God, Paul penetrated dark places and planted churches in many previously unreached cities.

But there was one place where Paul’s great spiritual gifts only succeeded in winning a few converts. That was in Athens. In Athens Paul ministered alone and without a partner.

There is a new move amongst the people of God. Many are no longer looking to the priest, pastor or evangelist, the spiritual giant on the pedestal. Many are no longer waiting for the Man of God to move.

Many of us are rediscovering spiritual partnership, personal spiritual experience, spiritual community and teamwork. This is the way hundreds of millions will see that Jesus is alive in His people and many more millions will find God for themselves.

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