During WWII, when Nazi forces conquered towns in Europe, some of the citizens in those towns collaborated with them, in an attempt to secure special favors and safety for their families. You can imagine how such collaborators were hated and despised by the others in town. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day collaborated with Rome. In addition to being despised for that reason, they also were considered to have abandoned their place among God’s Chosen People.
And yet, Jesus selected a tax collector, Matthew, to become one of His disciples. Imagine the outrage! Worse yet, Jesus went to a dinner at Matthew’s house, also attended by other “outcasts” and sinners.
“When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13)
Jesus, Whose understanding of reality was not limited or distorted, knew that people caught up in sin are spiritually sick, that they need healing not ostracism. Jesus told the self-righteous people, those who looked down on “sinners,” to “go and learn” what the verse in Hosea meant by, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus began to extend mercy to the outcasts by showing up for dinner. He sent the religious people back to learn more about the Bible. Think about that.
It is ironic that many who call themselves Christians consider themselves too good to associate with people who are caught up in spiritual sickness, people who need mercy. If you have been rejected by so-called Christians, do not hesitate to seek mercy from Jesus. He didn’t come for the righteous but for sinners.