The scorned woman at the well, the notorious tax collectors, the forgotten prisoners – when it came to the outcasts of society, Jesus had a habit of reaching out in grace and forgiveness.
Why? When confronted about eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, Christ’s straightforward reply was: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31).
He even called His disciples to follow His example. Recounting the struggles of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers and prisoners, Jesus explained, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Even if Christ’s followers today choose to accept His call to embrace the outcasts and underdogs of society, where do we find those needy souls to serve? The reality is that desperate, disenfranchised individuals and families are all around us. It’s a matter of seeking them out with discerning eyes and willing hearts.
Showing compassion and respect
One heartrending example we have seen in our travels as Woman’s Missionary Union’s national correspondents is the plight of young prostitutes on rundown street corners. In many churches, it seems that even mentioning the word “prostitute” is considered impolite – and to suggest ministering to them in the name of Christ seems almost unthinkable.
The bright spot in this story is a faithful team of WMU of Virginia volunteers who serve this outcast community with compassion and respect.
As the volunteers strike up conversations with young women and young men they pass on the streets in the wee hours of the morning, “we just meet them where they are,” noted Pat Eggleston, a soft-spoken, white-haired grandmother who helps coordinate the ministry. She said they seek to convey a sense of personal dignity and self-worth to those struggling amid difficult circumstances and choices.
“Our goal is to be salt and light to a dark world,” she emphasized. “It’s a very dangerous lifestyle. We go there and just casually meet people, we talk to them, we offer prayer. Our goal is to just offer them hope, offer resources. … Many are searching for a way out.”
Seek and serve the vulnerable
Whether it’s ministering to prostitutes on the streets, homeless individuals scrounging for their next meal or immigrant families struggling with language and cultural barriers, Christ instructs us to seek out and serve the outcasts in our midst. The coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the pressing needs faced by countless vulnerable people throughout society.
It’s much easier to stay inside the comfortable confines of our church’s four walls, worshipping and fellowshipping with like-minded believers who look like us, sound like us and act like us. But that’s not what Christ calls us to do.
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” He reminds us. Who are the outcasts in your community who need a kind word, a hot meal or a caring prayer in the name of Christ? Go and seek them out – just as Jesus did.
By Trennis Henderson, WMU National Correspondent