Read Luke 5:27-32
27-28 After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did—walked away from everything and went with him.
29-30 Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?”
31-32 Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” (THE MESSAGE)
Jesus had this knack of embracing people as they were and yet helping them become who they were made to be. Levi, or Matthew, is a very good example of this. Jesus didn’t demand he change before he encountered him. Then again, Jesus didn’t just leave him the same man. He loved him enough to meet him in all his brokenness, but loved him too much to leave him broken.
We can slip into two extreme positions when it comes to accepting others. We can refuse to embrace them or accept them until they measure up to what we consider are the right standards. Or we can embrace and accept them without any invitation to change. Stern rejection or indulgent toleration are not the ways of Jesus.
The lesson seems to be that unless we accept people just as they are, we can never help them become who they were made to be. We grow in a climate of gracious acceptance, not harsh judgementalism. Acceptance, in this case, is not approval. It is a gracious invitation to be the person God made me to be.
I come to Jesus just as I am. I stay with Jesus to become more than who I am. I am loved by Jesus as the real and broken ‘me’. His love helps me become a better ‘me’.