Inspired by Matthew 9
I never thought “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves”, a 1971 hit song by Cher would pop up in my mind while reading the Bible, but here I am writing about it! The song describes the singer’s colorful family and how they earn a living…and how they are judged by it.
Matthew chapter 9 takes us to an intimate dinner at Matthew the Tax Collector’s house. You could say these are the “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” of the Jesus Era. The guest list baffled the Pharisees:
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)
Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) Jesus knew His followers, “the healthy”, bought into his message and would go wherever He was preaching. He wanted to reach the “spiritually sick”. He met them where they were. By doing this, He was able to show love, share His message of hope, and encourage them to transform their lives. If He sent them a dinner invitation, do you think they would consider themselves worthy to dine with Him? He had to go out there and actively pursuit them.
We, too, as followers of Christ, must go reach the hopeless, right where they are. There could be church on every corner and yet there could be a junkie or a call girl right across the street from each one. Just because there is a building doesn’t mean they will enter it…even if they know it would be good for them. As my friend, Christian author and blogger Rivera Douthit recently taught at a speaking engagement I went to, we must “Take the church to the people.” We need to stop worrying what other people will think. Hurting people–whether behind bars at jail, in a strip club dressing room, or on a street corner covered in newspaper–need Jesus.
I am a huge fan of helping people where they are. When we do this, every time we leave them, we lower the drawbridge to get out. They might not be ready to leave their situation, but they are ready to hear more about Jesus’ love and redemption and hope for the future. We must return to them, crossing the drawbridge we left down. In time, they could be ready to leave their shelter of hopelessness and cross over the drawbridge to freedom. Without leaving a bridge for them to cross, their only options are a.) stay in their sinful, hopeless life; or, b.) plummet to their demise.
Jesus is life. We can be the bridge. We mustn’t avoid the gypsies, tramps, and thieves around us. We must embrace them with the same love Jesus gives us.
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)