Luke 5: Don’t play with him. He’s not cool.

Luke 5: Don’t play with him. He’s not cool.

I remember hearing this from a friend of mine concerning another friend of mine when I was in the 5thor 6thgrade. My “uncool” friend was over to spend the night with me, and we gathered for some basketball with some other guys, all friends of mine, but guys who ran in a different circle than my other friend.

I remember being hurt over that statement. I loved my friend (and still do 40 years later though we are not as close as we once were.) I loved my other friend too. I spent the night at his house, and we did a lot of things together. It seemed unreal to me that someone didn’t think my friend was “cool.” Both of my friends were a little older than I, so I just shrugged it off and kept playing. I kept both friends, but I kept them apart.

In Luke 5:27-32 we find Jesus calling Levi (a.k.a. Matthew, cf Matt 9:9) to be His disciple. Levi was a tax collector, among the most despised and hated of all the Jews (cf Matt 18:17, Luke 18:11).

Thrilled by the opportunity to be a follower of Jesus, Levi made a great feast. Naturally, his circle of friends included other tax collectors. Indignant (and perhaps jealous) that these undesirables shared a table with the Lord, the scribes and Pharisees found fault. In the vernacular of my childhood, they said, “You shouldn’t eat with these people. They aren’t cool.”

In His own inimitable way, Jesus responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus wasn’t in any way implying that these religious leaders were righteous or in no need of spiritual healing. Rather, he was giving emphasis to their hardness of heart in comparison to these social outcasts.

Cults and similar religious groups thrive because they prey on what “proper” Christians consider the rejects of society. These outcasts are searching for exactly what the church ought to offer: acceptance, love, inclusion, a sense of family and belonging. To our shame, we are failing an innumerable host of willing souls while we “search” in vain for the perfect candidate… the guy without the tats or ear holes who visits our assembly and practically begs us to help him.

Good luck with that.

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