Mark 2: Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
I do not mean to make a blanket statement about the church throughout the U.S. I know that there are churches that look like this passage; however, my experience has shown me that it is not common. Sadly, this really hasn’t bothered me over the years. I hate to admit it, but had I been in Caesarea in Levi’s house that day, I would have historically been in the Pharisees’ camp and would have been asking the “scum” question myself.
I do marvel at how things change. I suppose age and experience do tend to make you a tad bit more wise. At the very least, they help you to not open your mouth quite as often, proving to all how foolish you really are. I’m awed at the transformation that occurs when Holy Spirit shows up and emboldened by the authority of Jesus that becomes personal. If I were Jacob, son of Isaac, I would be setting up a pillar stone and inundating it with copious amounts of oil as a memorial, at this very moment, to the mercy of Yahweh.
But, seriously. Why does the church not look like this description of Jesus’ crew in Caesarea? I know it’s messy, time-consuming, frustrating, irritating, and, to top it off, wildly unpopular. We tend to like popular and organized and successful and socially acceptable and financially stable. Who likes drama? Predictable, programmable, and popular — that’s the yardstick often employed to measure success in the church scene. And, I’m really not against that; my query is simple — Why does the church not look like disreputable sinners and scum?