Every once in a while, a new student will come into my kids' class at school. As soon as my kids are in the car, they are always quick to tell me when a new student arrives. They tell me all about the person, where they are from, and that it was their first day in school. Early on in life, I want them to learn to look for people who feel out of place-to look for the misfits. The first thing I tell them is, "Go and make them feel welcome. Whatever it takes, go out of your way to let them know they are special."
The world is more connected than ever before and, yet, more lonely. The mark of a Bible-believing Christian is someone who looks for people who feel misplaced in the world.
Jesus looked for what we would call "the fish out of water." In one story He came to the city of Jericho-the same city Joshua conquered generations before. There was a man there named Zacchaeus who really wanted to see who Jesus was; he'd heard the rumors but he wanted to see for himself.
But there was a problem. Zacchaeus was short—"a wee little man" as the children's song goes—and there was a massive crowd around Jesus. What could he do? He spotted a tree and climbed up to get a better view. It wasn't long before Jesus saw him.
"Zacchaeus," He said, "come down immediately. I must stay at your house today" (Luke 19:5). Let's stop right there for a moment. I must stay at your house today. Isn't it great that Jesus invited Himself over to this man's house? Jesus pushed Himself into Zacchaeus's life.
I still don't know how Zacchaeus was able to stay in that tree from the shock factor of Jesus noticing him among the crowd celebrating His entrance into the city. On top of that, Jesus invited Himself over. What a savior! He takes notice even of the ones who feel forsaken and hidden among the shadows.
The Bible says Zacchaeus came down from his limb and welcomed Jesus, but that people started talking smack. "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner," they said (Luke 19:7). You see, Zacchaeus was a tax collector-the chief tax collector-and there was no one in Israel more despised than a tax collector.
But the people got this all wrong. Jesus wasn't invited to be the guest of a sinner; He invited Himself to be with the sinner. The entire life of Jesus from the womb to the resurrection was about one thing: looking for misfits. Jesus didn't wait for misfits to find Him; He went after them with incredible intensity and awareness.
There's another similar passage of Scripture that might escape you unless you're really paying attention. It's found in Matthew 26:6: "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper..." Now, I realize this Scripture didn't immediately blow your mind. On the surface it isn't particularly powerful-but get the context. Jesus was near the end of His ministry. He was in the final stage of His life before going through the agony of the cross.
What would I be doing in the final stages of my life, near the end? Probably saying good-bye to family, or maybe doing something fun, or taking a dream vacation, possibly eating at a really good steak house somewhere.
Jesus? He was having dinner at the home of a man who was infected with the social-outcast disease of leprosy. This pretty much explains the life of Jesus. Looking for anyone who felt invisible or forsaken and going out of his way to find them. The entire plan of salvation is Jesus leaving heaven to come down to earth to find the outsiders in their sins, and then to save them from their sins.
Jesus' encounters with out-of-place people were transformational. People were changed after being around Him. Jesus had a way of noticing them and then believing they could be so much more. As a result, people were changed. Jesus surrounded himself with some pretty bizarre characters. He sought them out. Then they flocked to him and became the people would start a revolution.
Here’s the thing: looking for misfits is our job too.
Matthew Barnett is the Co-Founder of the Los Angeles Dream Center and Senior Pastor of Angelus Temple. A dedicated husband and father of two, Matthew has spent the past 25 years addressing the local needs of communities in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Dream Center is a faith-based non-profit dedicated to transforming the lives of individuals and families in the City of Los Angeles through residential and outreach programs. What started out as a desire to serve those in need, has now grown with their leadership into a global movement of love and service with nearly 100 Dream Centers helping communities worldwide. To learn more about the work of the Dream Center, click here.