As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:9–13)

Someone who cares for you probably played a part in your coming to Christ. God wants you to be like Jesus Christ—a friend to sinners—and to spend time with non-Christians that they, too, might come to trust Him as Savior. Matthew 9:9–13 uses the terms “tax collectors and sinners.” Tax collectors were despised because they collaborated with the despised Romans and they over-taxed the people and kept the surplus for themselves. Sinners were despised because of their lack of moral purity and their degenerate lifestyle or because they didn’t follow to the letter the ritual purity laws as taught by the Scribes and Pharisees.

The religious faction known as the Pharisees found it inappropriate for a teacher of God’s Word to eat with those whom the Pharisees felt were a religiously unclean class of people. Christ explained that those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick do. Tax collectors and sinners often came to Christ because they recognized their need for Him. The Pharisees needed Him too, but their spiritual pride kept them from admitting their sin.

God wants you to spend time with believers so that you can encourage one another, but don’t leave your non-Christian friends behind. Spend time with them that they might come to know Him.

One word of caution: if you find yourself slipping spiritually when you are around unbelievers, do whatever is appropriate to keep that from happening. Remember, Jesus Christ influenced the sinners. They did not influence Him.

Ask God for two kinds of relationships—a close relationship with believers who can stimulate you spiritually and contact with non-Christians whom you can introduce to the Savior.

(Adapted from 31 Days to Living as a New Believer)