Bikers, Tax Collectors, and Sinners

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Authored by Dan Roselle

For many years as a Christian, and specifically as a missionary, I thought of myself as a loving person, someone who treated people like Jesus did—with compassion and understanding. But after a few incidents that took place in my life, I began to realize that I didn’t have as much compassion and understanding as I thought I had. I often found myself judging others—not always verbally, but in my heart and my mind.

One of these incidents took place some years ago when I was visiting Mount Rushmore with my family. At the time, there was the huge annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, so about a hundred bikers showed up at the campground where we were staying for the night. I have to admit, when I saw these rough-looking, leather-clad, tattoo-covered bikers, I passed a silent judgment on them.

The morning after they arrived, my wife went to the campground clubhouse to buy coffee and ended up talking with a number of the bikers. Word quickly got around that we were Christians, and soon, a handful of people, who were also Christians, had gathered at our campsite to talk with my wife about the Lord.

I didn’t get involved in these conversations as I was busy packing up our camping gear. Yet I overheard these folks—who I had already judged as unreachable—talking openly about their difficult lives, their bike accidents, their hardships, and to my surprise, how much Jesus meant to them. They were sincere and hoped that the Lord would help them make it through life. My wife has kept in touch with a couple of them for many years.

After seeing and hearing how genuine these bikers were and how in need of Jesus they admitted themselves to be, I felt ashamed for being so quick to pass judgment. It made me think about how Jesus treated others while He was on earth—He went out of His way to help the poor, He accepted those whom society had rejected, He cared for the sick and the needy no matter what their social standing was. I knew that I wanted to be more like that.

This incident also got me examining my judgmental attitude in general. I started to realize how easily I judged people negatively—based on the length of their hair, or the music they listened to, or the food they ate, or if they used foul language, or even if they wore sunglasses.

All this combined showed me that although I was a Christian who loved the Lord, believed in His Word, and tried to follow His teachings, I had been in bondage to my attitudes of superiority and condescension, which kept me from enjoying my Christian life as much as I could. I was missing the whole point of Jesus coming to earth to show God’s love to mankind, as well as the whole point of His teachings to love our neighbors as we love ourselves,1 to give preference to and honor others,2 and that whatever we do to the least important of those He calls His brothers, we do it to Him.3

When I look at the love and patience that Jesus had for all those He came in contact with, and specifically with the 12, who had each made their own mistakes, it makes me want to strive to have more love and patience for others. Jesus loved His 12 disciples so much that after the Last Supper, before His death, He prayed for them, thanking His Father for them.4 In His prayer, He didn’t mention their blunders, disagreements, or personality quirks. He focused on more important things—love and oneness.

The further I study the characteristics of Jesus, what stands out to me is His love. In Matthew chapter 5, He reaches out to those in need to comfort them, letting them know that they will be blessed. He preaches about the need to forgive those who have wronged us, telling us that we’re to love our enemies and be kind to those who say evil things against us.5 He speaks about loving others and helping those in need. He didn’t just “preach” these things; He lived what He taught by associating with the hated tax collectors and the “sinners.” He reached out to whoever needed love, no matter who they were—whether an officer in the Roman army or an outcast of society. To Jesus, it didn’t matter, because His purpose for coming to earth was to show God’s love to people.

It’s easy to be judgmental of others. It’s human nature. It is easy to look down on others as if we’re better than them. If at any time you find yourself quick to judge others or be critical of them, perhaps it would help to find out what it is that bothers you about them or what is it that you get critical about. Because once you’ve identified these things, you might find that it’s your own attitude toward these issues that is in need of change.

It may be difficult for you to not pass judgment or be critical of a particular person, but if you were to stop and think about how much that person matters to Jesus, or how much Jesus loves them, it could help to give you the outlook shift you need. It could help you to consider or imagine what that person might be going through at the time or what they’ve been through in life that might be causing them to look or behave the way they do.

Talking to the person could also help, but obviously this won’t always be an option. So you may find yourself needing to exercise—as Jesus did—empathy, compassion, tolerance, and understanding.

If you realize that you are critical of someone, you can ask Jesus to help you to accept and love them for who and what they are. And most importantly, follow Jesus’ example of loving others and living a life of outgoing love toward others. His example is the best you’ll ever find!

Remember these thought-provoking and stirring words found in Matthew 5 and Luke 6:

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there in that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”6 “Love your enemies!” Or we could apply it more broadly by heeding His admonition to “Love others! Do good to them. Then your reward in heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”7


Footnotes
1 Mark 12:31
2 Romans 12:10 NASB
3 Matthew 25:40 ISV
4 John 17:9–26
5 Matthew 5:44
6 Matthew 5:46–47 NLT
7 Luke 6:35–36 NLT

Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2012 by The Family International


Article originally appeared on Just1Thing (https://just1thing.com/).
Published: Sept. 8, 2012
See website for complete article licensing information.