Throughout the verses of Matthew I have been reading lately, Jesus regularly does the unexpected: he shows mercy and kindness to the people who are outcast and downtrodden. He healed a man with leprosy (Matthew 8: 3) through touching him. That may not seem too shocking if you don't know much about leprosy or about the culture of societies when Jesus was alive, but trust me this would have been a very BIG deal. Jesus was God incarnate, He had all the power of God within Him, so He could have healed the man through saying it, or willing it to be done, but instead, he took it upon Himself to show compassion above and beyond what would have been expected or even tolerated within that society. Touching someone with leprosy would be making yourself 'unclean', and yet God did it anyway, to show that man mercy and compassion and healing.
Later, it says Jesus "healed all the sick" (Matthew 8: 16. He did not look at them and turn up His nose and walk away, He didn't notice them but pretend He hadn't and rush by because he 'really didn't have time to stop', He didn't smile politely but say 'no' and continue about His day. Despite the fact that He is God and knows every sin and horrible thing those people had done, He knew how 'clean' or 'unclean' they were, He knew them better than anyone else, and if ever anyone did have the right to judge another human being, it was Him...and yet He showed compassion and mercy and healed them without prejudice.
In Matthew 9, we read of the calling of Matthew, who was a tax collector, and then of Jesus eating dinner with "many tax collectors and 'sinners'" (Matthew 9:10). These people were amongst the most hated in the society and the Pharisees questioned, why would Jesus associate Himself with these people? Why would the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, choose to dine in the presence of tax collectors and sinners over anyone else?! Jesus responds: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick...I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12). Jesus came to help the outcasts, He came to save the sinners, He came to have mercy on those suffering.
Jesus does this time and again throughout the New Testament. He befriends the outcasts, He touches the unclean, He shows compassion to the hated - He loves them all without judgement or conditions, because that is what He came to do!
And then, in Matthew 10, Jesus anoints His disciples and calls them to do the same. We are the disciples of God, this calling is also for me and you.
Over the past few weeks, I've been feeling quite overwhelmed. I like having a plan, and I like knowing where I'm heading and what I'm going to do along the way and once I get there. When I left school, I liked knowing that college was next, when I left college I liked knowing that university was next, when I didn't like living in Newcastle I liked knowing I would come home instead, when I ran low on money, I liked knowing my temp. job and my parents would support me. I like stability, and I like certainty, and I like a plan. But right now, my life is quite plan-less. I really don't like that. But I'm starting to recognize that even though I don't have a plan right now, and that is terrifying for me, I am not unstable, and I am not unsafe. God has a plan for me, and He knows it all, every single detail, so it doesn't matter that I don't. And, even though I have been plan-less, and I've been going through life trying to figure out where I'm going (to no end) - I have found myself twice in the last week, put in a position where I felt called to help people who probably would have been considered outcasts.
When Jesus called the disciples to help the outcasts with Him. When He called them to heal the sick, and love the downtrodden; they didn't have a plan. They weren't qualified with a degree in medicine to help with the healing, or a qualification in counselling to help those who felt isolated, they hadn't known life would bring them there and they were completely unprepared. Then Jesus told them, "don't take a bag for the journey" (Matthew 10: 9), don't take anything with you, just go and do. So, not only were they unprepared but they were also unequipped and poor, and completely without any resources. But that is how God called them. He called them just as they were. They didn't have to do anything spectacular or be anything wonderful, and yet He called them! And, in the same way, He calls you just as you are.
You don't need a plan, you don't need to be qualified, you don't need to be anything more than yourself! God has a plan for you, and a call for you, and it starts with this call to His disciples: help the outcasts. Even though I have been plan-less and terrified and worrying almost constantly, God has called me to help others. I actually walked passed both of the people I helped when I first saw them, I was scared to approach them, and I didn't think I was equipped to help them, and I did the thing we've all done before (walk passed, politely smile and apologize, but don't slow down or stop). But once I had passed them, I realised that actually I was qualified to help because God called me to do it, and there was no need to be scared because God was with me, and I wasn't unequipped because when I searched within myself (and within my bag), I found God had prepared me. You are called to help the outcasts. Don't worry that you don't have a plan, don't worry that you're scared, don't worry that you aren't qualified. God is calling you because He has a plan, He is with you, and He has qualified you!
It's easy to pass judgement, to turn up your nose, or to hurry past. But God doesn't call you to an easy life, He calls you to help the outcasts, so go forth like His disciples did, and show compassion to the downtrodden, love to the hated, and prayer for the sick.