27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” 28 So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow Him. 29 Then Levi hosted a grand banquet for Him at his house. Now there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus replied to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Most people want to be friendly with the lost without being friends. We want to reach others and keep them at a distance. But Jesus does the opposite here. He loves people as they are. He loves US as we are. Most followers of Jesus see themselves as the Pharisees in this story or as innocent bystanders at best. Most of us forget that at one point, Jesus chose to befriend and dine with us.
We too were once lost.
Why do so many Christians drift away from rather than toward the lost? We know that it’s where Jesus is going. We know that if we follow Him, then we too will choose to dine with them. We’ll be intentional and open.
But we attend fewer parties than Jesus did. We see the godless actions and are so repulsed we seek to do everything we can NOT to associate with them. And in doing so, we become the antithesis of what Jesus intends for us. Our core is to be not of this world. Our actions and attitudes should be holy. The fact that Jesus attends a party and doesn’t stand on the table to rail against the sinners with whom He is dining isn’t a reflection of the morality of Jesus. But it is a reflection of the love Jesus has for others.
The Pharisees forgot this. Their personal efforts to feel good about themselves and their holiness caused them to determine that association was a part of identity. So they refused to associate with the lost or the unclean or the lowly. Perhaps they thought they were above it all. Regardless, their tacit determination not to love the lost was in actuality a tacit agreement not to love God fully.
And this is why Jesus saves His harshest words in Scripture for the Pharisees and not the lost (not even the Roman soldiers who beat Him). His greatest criticism is that decisions were made in the proclamation of the love of God without actually doing what God was willing to do. In doing so, the Pharisees became their own god because they usurped the love of Christ.
Is it possible that whenever we tell God that by being around the lost we will behave like the lost, what we are actually saying is that He who is in us ISN’T greater than He who is in the world? Is it possible that we wind up denying the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into His likeness because we follow Him on our own terms? We effectively take His love for us and refuse to be moved by it to others.
And this begs the question: Just how taken by His love are we?
I find that being intentional is hard. It is difficult and challenging to be around people who actually violently disagree with me on the issue of God. And in doing so, I’m at once saddened for their own ignorance and refusal and thankful that I was there to at least cause a question mark or two in their own spirit. If we choose not to dine with the sinner and tax collector, then the doctor may never arrive.
The sick die with no opportunity for health.
- How far have you “drifted” in your love for the lost?
- Jesus dines with those who were shunned by the religious. They were likely unscrupulous and not close to God. And yet Jesus was….holy. Write down your top five fears about what you think will happen to you if you love the lost.
- How are you friendly without being a friend? Spend some time reflecting how Jesus chose to meet us as lost people in need of a doctor. Consider how He met us where we actually were and not as we wished we were. Think of the divide He bridged and how we can go with Him to bridge similar divides with those who don’t yet know Him.