Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by loving those society refused to. Jesus loves the unlovable, and therefore, so should we.
Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
For anyone who attended church at a young age, one of the first songs you probably learned was “Jesus Loves Me’. It is a very simple song, with a very simple message, and yet it is complete in and of itself.
It is also a song that, whoever sings it, it is true for them. Jesus Christ loves the entire world. He sacrificed His life so that anyone who repents of their sins and surrenders their life to Him will be granted eternal life with Christ (John 3:16).
This is all well and good to say this, but when you extend that logic, you realize that this includes people who are shunned, destitute, and outcast. While we can agree that Jesus loves the unlovable, it can be a very different story when He calls us to follow Him there.
Do We Love the Unlovable?
The truth is, if we surrender ourselves to Christ, at some point He will call us to love those that the “religious” among us would find undesirable. We know Jesus loves the unlovable, because He went to the places where the unlovable were. Consider some of the people Jesus encountered and loved in the Bible.
Jesus Loved Matthew the Tax Collector
If there is a type of person the Israelites of Jesus time hated more than a tax collector, I’m not aware of it.
Tax collectors were Jewish people serving the Roman government – while filling their own pockets. Nobody was probably more surprised than Matthew when Jesus extended an invitation to follow Him.
It is immediately following this moment in the Bible that we read the events in today’s passage. The religious leaders of the day saw this and were shocked. The Pharisees considered the act of eating in the homes of tax collectors as defilement and questioned why Jesus would do so.
They did not understand why Jesus loves the unlovable. Perhaps it’s because the unlovable need the love of Christ the most. Matthew, by virtue of his profession, was despised and shunned. And yet, Jesus loved Him.
Jesus Loved the Blind Man
John tells the account of Jesus healing a man born blind (John 9:1-41). Based on this account, it was clear that people assumed this man was being cursed for being a sinner. Jesus corrects this and then proceeds to heal the blind man.
As the account goes on, the religious leaders of the day interrogated the blind man. They did this in an attempt to trap Jesus. Eventually they kicked him out of the synagogue.
Here is another example where Jesus loves the unlovable. Pity was too good for this blind man, as the people assumed he deserved being blind. Perhaps only complete strangers cared enough to give him money or food. And yet, Jesus loved him.
Jesus Loved the Thief on the Cross
Even in His final moments of painful execution, Jesus showed He loves the unlovable.
What I find interesting in this account (Luke 23:32-43) is that there are 2 thieves, but only one shows a desire for Jesus to love him. The other makes demands of Christ. In this instance, it’s not even the religious who are chastising Jesus, but someone who is unloved by the world.
But the other thief, in just a few sentences, shows that He believes Jesus to be the Messiah. In his own way, the thief shows his faith. In that moment, Jesus assures this thief that he will inherit eternal life.
This thief was despised enough for his crimes that he was executed in the worst way imaginable. One can even argue that he was being executed justly – this thief admits this is the case.
Is there anyone who we could more justifiably reject than someone who admits his guilt and has earned a death sentence? That was the thief on the cross. And yet, Jesus loved him.
The Why of Loving the Unlovable
Loving the poor, sick, needy, and the outcast is the hallmark of a true disciple who will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 25:34-40).
However, there are people who do not follow Jesus who perform great acts of charity to those in need. We should be thankful that there are other people in this world who choose to provide care for the less fortunate and despised. But if it’s possible for a non-believer to do these works, what is the difference when a disciple does it?
The difference is, we do it out of our devotion to Jesus Christ. It is for more than the sake of doing good; we do it because the love we show in the name of Jesus has the potential to bring people to the Gospel.
We also need to understand; without Christ’s empowerment, loving others will find a limit. When followers of Christ are loving the lowly of this world and can’t explain why, that’s the power of Christ working through us.
So it is important that when others see us doing these things, we help others see the reason we are doing them is because we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to tie our actions to the Gospel so that through our actions, those being loved will want to experience Christ as their Savior.
Christ commands us to love (all) others. Eventually, this will lead us to care for and serve people the world hates or wants to reject. Christians are to answer the world’s despair with unending love.
Remember, you are doing the work Jesus requires of His disciples. Jesus loves the unlovable. And so should all those who would follow Him.
More Bible verses about loving others, including the unlovable:
Proverbs 14:31; Micah 6:8; Luke 6:35; Romans 13:8; Philippians 2:3-4; James 2:14-17; 1 John 4:19-21