At times, this openness put Jesus in a difficult position with the people in power. Prejudice was rampant, and people of a certain class did not associate with those of a lower class. If there was any suspicion of wrongdoing, especially, they were shunned. Luke tells a story about a dinner Jesus attended: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’ ” (Luke 15:1-2).
The tax collectors were considered corrupt—whether or not they actually were—and “sinners” could have included many different groups of people, all of whom the Pharisees believed were of low status and not the type of people with which to associate.
But Jesus was on a different kind of mission—a mission to the lost. It didn’t matter how lost or how lowly, he was open to sharing with anyone (even the high and mighty Pharisees). In the rest of Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about things that are lost, diligently sought after and found: a sheep, a coin and a son. In every instance, the finder is overjoyed to be reunited with that which had been lost.
It is the responsibility of all Christians to be open, welcoming and generous.Jesus’ openness toward tax collectors and sinners, as well as toward Pharisees, was because they were lost. On one occasion, Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13). This is the reason we are The Salvation Army!
The writer to the Hebrews said this: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:1-3).
This is how to make God’s Word and his wonderful plan of salvation accessible to the whosoever: show them hospitality, welcome them, go to visit them in whatever situation they find themselves, be generous.
In 1 Peter, we read: “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:8-11 MSG).
Jesus said: “Proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).
In other words, it is the responsibility of all Christians to be open, welcoming and generous, proclaiming a message of hope and acceptance to the whosoever. The gospel should always be accessible to everyone!
Commissioner Susan McMillan is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Follow her at facebook.com/ susanmcmillantc and twitter.com/salvationarmytc.