I was reflecting on the night God called me into the ministry and the passage He used. It was Luke 5:27-28 which reads: 27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. That night I knew that God wanted me to leave all my plans for my future and follow Him fully – in ministry. It was an awesome night of commitment as I had struggled for some time with what God wanted with my life.
I left everything and followed Jesus, but I didn’t do exactly what Levi (Matthew) did. Maybe I should have. Luke 5:29-32 NIV states: 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Times haven’t really changed have they. We still have Pharisees mixed among us. They do all they can to look good on the outside; they’re very proper and religious, but Jesus said they were not as they appeared. In Matt 23:27, Jesus said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. What’s interesting to me is that these “very religious” leaders were the first to throw stones at others and were the ones that Jesus had the most trouble with in His ministry.
One of my great frustrations is the frequency at which those who claim to be followers of Christ point fingers at the actions of others who are doing what they can to reach people for Christ. How in the world will people who don’t know Christ ever meet Him, if Christians don’t love them enough to even hang out with them. Instead, many of us in our pious ways want them to clean up their acts and join our holy huddles, but Romans 1 is clear that those who are not “righteous” will not act in righteous ways. Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32 NIV In order to call sinners to repentance, Jesus went where they were and actually hung out with them; imagine that! Maybe it was (and still is) a part of His purpose. Jesus stated His purpose in Luke 19:10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Maybe it’s time for those of us to claim to follow Christ to do a heart check. Is it possible that it’s the unholy spirit (not the Holy Spirit) who’s often the source of our accusations toward other brothers & sisters in Christ? Could it be that we ought to spend our time praying for one another and fighting the “real enemy” instead of constantly looking for something (or someone) to point fingers at. Maybe this will never change – after all – the Pharisees did it to Jesus as He pointed out in Luke 7:34: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘
I know that I’m supposed to entrust what I’ve learned in my walk with God to others who will be faithful to do the same (2 Tim. 2:2). That means I have to be intentional in hanging out with other faithful believers. I’m also aware that Jesus invested the majority of His time in 12 followers (disciples) and that’s the model we should emulate. However, Jesus was also very intentional about hanging with people who didn’t know Him. I love the fact that the KJV says of Jesus that “he must needs go” through Samaria in John 4:4. He was bound by His purpose to go through Samaria – not because it was the shortest route, but because He planned a divine encounter with a woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. He didn’t (and we shouldn’t) approve of their sin, but Christ loved sinful people (like us) enough to hang with them and die for them while they were still sinners (Rom. 5:8)!
So – while you might not agree with it – I think I’d rather hang with Jesus and the people He hung with, rather than those who are like the Pharisees.