Have you ever stopped to think about the kind of people you go to church with? For the most part, I would guess that your fellow church members are pretty good people. They aren’t murderers, thieves, or rapists. The vast majority would be well behaved, upstanding citizens. You probably feel safe with the people at your church.

But what about the people who first followed Jesus? In Mark 2:13-17 we see Jesus calling another disciple. He has already called 4 guys, two sets of brothers who were fishermen. These were your blue collar, time-card punching, guys whose language was only slightly less foul than their body odor after a long day on the lake. Not your typical suit and tie, third row center church goers. And now he calls a guy named Levi.

When thinking about the people in your church, I doubt any of them are murderers or thieves. But is there anyone who would be considered a traitor to your country? No?

Levi was a tax collector. Strike one! We don’t like for people to take our money and give it to others without our say so. Levi probably took more than he should have. Strike two! Tax collectors could with full authority take more than was necessary and pocket their profits. Levi worked for the Romans. Strike three!

There are not words appropriate for this blog to describe how orthodox Jews felt towards tax collectors. In fact, they had their own category. There were “sinners” and then there were “tax collectors.” Traitor! Thief! Hypocrite! Backstabber!

And along comes Jesus, this traveling rabbi, healer, and general holy man. He passes by Levi’s table (probably passing a long line of disgruntled citizens along the way) and says, “Follow me.” Really Jesus?

Levi immediately got up, flipped over his “Closed” sign, and went to lunch with Jesus. And then as they were going to lunch, Levi calls up all his tax collector buddies and all his friends from the local tavern and brothel while he’s at it. This is not the kind of luncheon your parents would want you going to.

Unfortunately, far too many “Christians” take the attitude of the Pharisees in this instance: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

We have an image to uphold.

Don’t you know those people are just going to take advantage of you?

Sure they are repenting now, but they’ll be right back to it in a couple weeks.

We should take care of our own first before reaching out to “those people”.

I’m not comfortable around that person.

Someone else can minister to them.

They got themselves into that situation. They deserve whatever they get.

Two thoughts: 1) Last time I checked, following Christ is not about being “safe” or “comfortable.” Jesus was never concerned about PR or his “image” except the image of God that he was reflecting – the image of a loving, forgiving, compassionate God who wants to save everybody! 2) Last time I checked, none of us is safe. We are all broken, messed up people who continually sin and fall short of God’s glory. We all deserve God’s wrath, but he chose instead to take that wrath upon himself so that we might experience his grace.

Jesus said in response: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Followers of Christ should follow Christ’s mission. If we aren’t reaching the people Jesus reached, then maybe we’re not really his followers.