I wonder who people see "hanging around" us when they look our way. Could it be they see all kinds of people just like us? Or could it be they see people of various backgrounds, struggling with multiple life issues of their own, drawn to us by something called "grace"? I daresay, we have a whole lot of "people just like us" in our circles - but are we being as effective as God would desire us to be when this is as far as our circle reaches?
By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." (Luke 15:1-3 The Message)
Jesus is our example this morning. He is surrounded by a whole lot of men and women of doubtful reputation. This draws the attention of the Pharisees - the leaders of the church community. I can say with a certainty - start incorporating those of "doubtful reputation" into your circle and you will soon gather the attention of the "religious". Why? They don't understand the example!
Let me explain. Christ never surrounded himself with the "saints of society". In fact, he chose the ones society would not hold up as always being of the best repute to actually be part of his inner circle. Matthew was a tax collector. You just did not get lower than that! Some of his most frequent followers were prostitutes. This was a double-whammy as far as Christ was concerned. Not only were they women of ill-repute, they were women! Jews did not regard women as very important - let alone important enough to sit at the feet of a great teacher!
Trust me - begin to enlarge your circles and you will find someone who will criticize your actions! Yet, when you do, you will be challenged in ways you would never dream possible. In fact, when you see the hurt of the hearts INSIDE these people within your circle, you will begin to see the desperation for Christ to do a work on their behalf! I honestly believe you enlarge your circle not just for those in the circle, but for the effect it has on your own life!
In enlarging your circle, you are going to grow. The hurt and need will challenge you to get deeper into the word of God - looking for answers to their hurt. You will learn to pray deeper - taking the needs of those with struggles beyond their capacity to endure to the feet of your Savior. You will develop a language beyond "church talk" - making the gospel message a reality to those who so desperately need its hope.
This is not a long post today. Yet, it is meant to make us think a little. Just how effective are we being in the kingdom of God today? Are we safe in our own little circles of church people - those who see things exactly as we see them? The danger is we will never develop the perspective to see as God sees! When we are truly "on mission" with Jesus, we will begin to see the need to draw into our circles those who most need to be touched by our Savior. We don't pursue the sin - we pursue the sinner. In turn, the openness of our heart will bring even more hurting people our way. Are you prepared to be an agent of God's grace? It is easy! Begin by showing how the grace of God has changed your life - then open your arms in grace to those who most desperately need to experience it as you have!