Read Luke 5:27-32
27 Later on, Jesus went out and looked straight at a tax-collector called Levi, as he sat at his office desk. “Follow me,” he said to him.
28 And he got to his feet at once, left everything behind and followed him.
29-30 Then Levi gave a big reception for Jesus in his own house, and there was a great crowd of tax-collectors and others at table with them. The Pharisees and their companions the scribes kept muttering indignantly about this to Jesus’ disciples, saying, “Why do you have your meals with tax-collectors and sinners?”
31-32 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’—to change their ways. (JBP)
Apparently there was a church in a pretty rough part of a seaside port in England which had a prominent sign displayed outside its door. It read, No sailors or prostitutes. It seems they didn’t want the wrong sort of people in their church. It was a view which found favour with religious leaders in Jesus’ time.
Jesus was notorious in their eyes for mixing with people who didn’t belong in polite society. In this case, it was a collector of Roman customs duties. Levi was not popular because he was seen as a Roman ally and because such tax collectors were usually corrupt. The fact that he had two strikes against him didn’t bother Jesus.
He is not the sort to wait for us to change our ways before he comes to do business with us. He meets us as we are. But too many people leave it at that, which is only half the story. He does indeed meet with ‘sinners’ and loves them as they are. However, he also meets with them to challenge them to change their ways.
Jesus knows that only in a climate of loving acceptance can people be persuaded to change. He loves us enough to meet us just as we are. He loves us too much to leave us just as we are.