The series I’m creating here focuses on the Biblical mandate for serving the least, the lost, and the lonely. Those who are lonely are often the outcasts of society. The group transcends age, race, and income level. Someone can be incredibly wealthy and be inconsolably lonely. Loneliness leads to many mental health issues, and sadly, extreme loneliness is often the root of suicide.
Matthew was among this group. Though he was rich by worldly standards, I believe he was very lonely. To use the words of Jesus, he was sick.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Jesus demonstrated His ability to look beyond outward appearances and look deep into the heart of man. While the context suggests He sees people as sick, He does not cast them into groups of haves and have nots. How He handles these situations are there for us to learn from. Jesus is not only permitting us to engage with sinners, but He also gives us a great example.
Mark’s Gospel account provides very little backdrop for the call of Matthew. In verse 14, Jesus simply says, “Follow me,” and Matthew’s life is instantly changed. While there was probably more to the interaction, the scene is consistent with how Mark writes the oldest of the Gospel accounts. He gets right to the point without superfluous details.
The only context we’re given for this great theological statement is the event that appears to follow Matthew’s decision to follow Jesus immediately:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17
The self-righteous in this story are looking down on Jesus because He is surrounded by sinners. Jesus goes out of His way to be in that position. This adds fuel to the fire of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Doesn’t Jesus know about these people?
Do we see loneliness in people? Can you imagine having no friends, no family, no one to lean one when you’re having a bad day? Or for that matter, having a great day. Extend that thought by imagining no friends to relate to for a month, a year, or even years. It’s easy to see loneliness in the eyes of someone walking into a shelter, but even then it’s often disguised with alcohol or some other substance use disorder. Those who have been blessed with earthly possessions can hide their loneliness with things of earthly value, but little eternal significance. All deserve a chance to have a relationship with Jesus.
Discipleship is grounded in a relationship with Christ and fueled by our relationship with others. These relationships begin with the acceptance of those who would otherwise be labeled unacceptable.
May we learn to remove our judgment robes and love people the way Jesus demonstrated, especially those who are lonely.
Holy Spirit, give us the ability to see the lonely among us, to have a heart that breaks for their emptiness, and the courage to introduce them to the One who stands ready to fill the gap.