Many of our neighbors’ experiences have left them wondering how to reconcile what they know of the church with what they know of God. They’ve tasted harshness in place of conviction, rejection in lieu of love, and isolation instead of family. Sadly, refraining from any local church involvement has become a norm for them.

If inviting a tax collector to follow Him wasn’t reason enough for their disdain, Jesus provoked the full weight of the religious community’s criticism when He dared to dine with less than commendable individuals (Matthew 9:10). In a culture where eating a meal together spoke of communion, relationship, and belonging, He defied their socioreligious hierarchy by sitting in community with “scum” (Matthew 9:11). In the religious leaders’ estimation, Jesus should have known better, and—in truth—He did.

Reminding them that it’s the sick that need a doctor (Matthew 9:12), Jesus challenged the idea that spiritual community should be contingent upon one’s level of religious perfection. Later, Paul revealed that God’s plan for us is wholeness—in spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But the real power behind this restorative work becomes evident in verse 24: “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”

Scripture doesn’t leave us without a model of compassion to follow (John 8:10-12). Love moved the heart of God to intervene on our behalf so that we might be set free from sin. Our response to others should be no less—extending compassion from hearts that understand true restoration comes only through repentance (Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 30:18). As God provides what we need to extend community to the broken, we move from a fragmented community to one of grace.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Ruth 2:1-23