“Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” ~Luke 5:27-28
Jesus called Levi while he was sitting in his booth. While Levi was cheating people, while he was scheming and stealing, while he was employed by the evil occupying forces, while he’s acting as a traitor and a crook, Jesus called him. He called Levi “as is.”
When you buy a car or a sweater “as is,” you know there’s a flaw. There’s something wrong with it.
Jesus came across the worst possible version of Levi asked him to follow him “as is.” “Come as you are.” Jesus didn’t start the conversation with a guilt trip about Levi’s past sins. He didn’t lecture Levi about his sins of the present. Instead, Jesus began a conversation with Levi with an invitation to Levi’s future. “Follow me.” Jesus didn’t say, “Levi, you can be one of us if you’ll quit your job and pay back all the people you’ve wronged and starting wearing a tie on Sunday mornings and cancel your subscription to Showtime. Do all that first and then maybe you can be one of us.”
No! Follow me, Jesus says. As is.
This says something to us we need to hear. The Bible doesn’t have stories about people changing their lives and then following Jesus. But the Bible is cram-packed with stories about people following Jesus and then their lives changing radically. The Good News is for sinners, not for people who already have their act together.
Your church is a vivid illustration of that. Your church is full of sick people. So is mine. Central is a mess! We’ll try to fool you, of course. If you’re a visitor to Central or a brand new member, we’ll try to fool you.
How are you? I’m fine! Yeah? I’m great! Really? Too blessed to be stressed! I’m walking in the light!
We try to hide it, but our churches are full of sick people. We’re lying and lusting and sinning and angry and selfish and petty. And we’re all trying to follow Jesus. And we’re getting better. By God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, we’re getting better. But Jesus called us while we were still sinners.