Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. — Luke 5:29
Do you know the story of Cinderella? Her mean step family made her do all the work in the household. She wasn’t allowed to go to the ball because her stepmother and sisters hated her. Out of nowhere, Cinderella was greeted by a fairy godmother. She turned a few mice into ready made horses and arranged for her to go to the ball, where the prince was smitten with her. When the clock struck midnight, everything returned to normal and Cinderella ran back to her old life. The prince conducted a search and found the young maiden, and they lived happily ever after.
Stories like this happen only in children’s books and Disney films, right? Actually, the Bible is full of Cinderella stories. People that everyone overlooked except for God. Jesus (The Son of God) was no exception when He walked the Earth. When Jesus chose his disciples, he did some things people did not expect. Levi was a tax collector—part of a socially despised profession known for corruption and greed. Tax collectors were labeled as “sinners” by the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who were concerned with following their own interpretation of God’s law and avoiding “unclean” people or behavior.
Calling Levi to discipleship, Jesus challenged him to a totally new way of life. And in his response, Levi’s life changed forever. He left everything to follow Jesus. Levi also “held a great banquet for Jesus at his house,” and a crowd of tax collectors and others joined in. As we might guess, this attracted the criticism of the Pharisees.
It is tempting to limit our social circles to people who are mostly like us. Yet Jesus reveals his priorities when he responds to the Pharisees by saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He cared more about reaching people lost in sin than being criticized by self-righteous legalists. The result: lives changed for eternity.
I have always thought the danger of religion is separatism. Our mission as Christ-followers is to engage the communities where we live and are planted. While we should separate ourselves from evil deeds, we must never isolate ourselves from people who have yet to meet Jesus and hear his good news.