As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Matthew 9:9-13

By Alan Gibson

In my 35 years as a high school teacher and coach, I’ve been asked multiple times if I ever considered teaching at a Christian school. There is no doubt that a Christian school education is a great option and offers fantastic opportunities for students and their families. However, when posed the question, almost every time my response was connected with today’s scripture.

While I would not characterize my former students and colleagues as tax collectors and sinners, the public-school setting presented an opportunity to demonstrate the care and attention that Jesus asked Matthew to give to those in need. Yes, the school day offered a chance to deliver instruction and guidance in reading, writing and sports. But those hours also provided an opportunity to show genuine interest, compassion and concern, particularly to both youth and adults who were “sick” and struggling and needed a “doctor.”

The weekly 20-minute meeting of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes group was a highlight of every Friday. For many of our members and sponsors, it was the only source of God’s influence through prayer, scripture, message, and belonging that they received. It was the “medicine” that helped propel them into the weekend.

In connection with the Christian school question posed to me, it basically comes to this: It’s easy for Christians to help Christians. It’s easy for us to care for and support those in our close-knit church family. We are like-minded, rarely hesitating to lend a hand, offer assistance and pray for one another. However, today’s scripture calls us to extend ourselves further. Jesus first said to Matthew, “Follow me.” As Christians, that is merely the first step. We are then encouraged to seek those in need, offer ourselves to them, and administer a prescription of help and hope with a dose of kindness and love.