The Calling of Levi
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Healthy and the Sick
Here we have a great reminder of a core value of Jesus’ ministry – the focus on the lost. Early and throughout his ministry, Jesus exemplifies this in his life, a consistent and purposeful openness and compassion to those who are spiritually broken, the wandering sheep, the lost coins. But even though Jesus does come to save the lost (which is in reality everybody!), this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care for those who try to be faithful – Simeon, John the Baptist, the faithful centurion. It reminds me of the story of the prodigal son – although the Father’s heart is overjoyed by the return of the second son, he still loves and treasures his first son. So please don’t take this as a statement that Jesus loves either/or, but rather, both/and – God loves us all!
A couple of points we can take away from this – first, not to cloister ourselves behind Christian walls. Having Christian friends and culture can be very valuable, especially for those who are young in their faith and need an incubator to gain strength. And we need to be in fellowship with brothers and sisters regularly, as we know from 1 Corinthians. But this does not mean that we divorce ourselves from all non-Christians around us. And what usually causes this type of lifestyle is not mean-spiritedness, but passivity, that we just slip into this comfortable mentality where we just hang out with those who are most similar to us, and before we know it, BAM, we have shut others out! To imitate Christ’s example of intentional and honest interaction with the lost, we must fight passivity and make a conscious decision and effort to love the lost.
But we must realize that in loving the lost, you may have to love the unlovable. When Jesus tells us that he came specifically for the sick, we get this image of a cute little child in a hospital bed clutching his teddy – so easy to love and serve and reach out to! But if you have ever been to a hospital, you know that this not the real image of sickness – it is people full of pain and fear and anger and confusion, people who look terrible from chemotherapy and others in comas with drool in the corners of their mouth – these too are the sick. Implicit in Jesus’ call for us to love the lost is to love the unlovable, those with no social skills, those who are not physically attractive, those who no one else loves. This is difficult and goes against our human nature, but remember that as we do this, we have an example to follow – after all, while we were still wretched sinners, Christ died for us. Who are we then to pick those whom we love?
1. When you look at your relationships, are they overwhelmingly with Christians? What have been the advantages of this? What have been the disadvantages?
2. Reversing our tendency to cloister is a step-by-step process, or specifically, a person-to-person process. Is there one non-Christian person whom you would like to build a deeper relationship with in your life?
3. What type of people are “unlovable” to you, people whom you have always found it excrutiatingly difficult to love?
4. Relating to #3, let’s narrow the focus down to a single person – is there an “unlovable” person in your life that you think God is calling you to love?