I recently saw something that I hadn’t paid much attention to, from the Gospel of Mark:

Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to Him. As He walked along, Jesus saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed Him. 

Later, Levi invited Jesus and the disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)

Mark 2:13-15, NLT

First thing: Levi is also known by the name Matthew. As in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. One of Jesus’ disciples, and author of the first book of the New Testament. Two names, same guy.

Now, check out the word MANY there in that last scripture. It’s used twice in succession:

• MANY tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.

• MANY people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.

Hanging out with “disreputable sinners” was apparently offensive to the local religious leaders:

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”  

Mark 2:16, NLT

See, eating together was a big deal in Bible times. It was about much more than just grabbing a bite together. It signified ACCEPTANCE of the people you were sharing a meal with.

Good church people didn’t eat with just ANYBODY. Certainly not the SCUM of society.

But Jesus did. In fact, according to the scripture, Jesus ate with MANY of those kinds of people. Without ever looking down on them at all.

Andy Stanley has said that people who were nothing like Jesus, liked Jesus. And Jesus liked people who were nothing like him. 

Read that again: People who were nothing like Jesus, LIKED Jesus. And Jesus LIKED people who were nothing like him. 

You know what I’m grateful for? That even when I was unbelieving, misbehaving, and troublemaking Jesus liked me, and invited me to follow him and embrace something new.

I am one of His “many”.

Jesus ACCEPTED me, right where I was at. He accepted me without condoning my lifestyle, my choices, or my actions. He also didn’t demand restitution, or condemn me, or shame me as a CONDITION of His acceptance.

He simply EMBRACED me and invited me to turn and follow Him. Just like he did for Matthew. 

Just like He does for you.

Today, pray and thank God for embracing you right where you’re at. Thank him for His invitation to follow Him. Pray this out loud, “Today I choose to turn and follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.”

And tomorrow, find someone that is nothing like you to show some kindness to.

That’s worship.