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More on Levi

13th October 2017

Last time, we read these words:

Luke 5v27-32
After this, 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.
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

We considered the need to respond to Jesus, to leave our old lives, yield everything we have and everything we are to Him, and follow Him. This time, let's consider our lives as Christians in the light of this passage.

Firstly, Jesus is our Leader and our Example. If Jesus loves sinners, then we should love sinners. If Jesus is willing to risk His reputation among religious types by spending time with sinners, then so should we. If Jesus invites sinners to become His friends, then we should do the same.

Jesus's offer to Levi amounted to, "Come and join my team". And our offer to sinners should be "Come and join Jesus's team". That sounds almost like a standard evangelistic message, but it's an invitation to become our friend, as well as Jesus's. Sometimes, we don't want the sinner in our church. May God forgive us.

As well as teaching us that we must befriend the sinners whom God is calling, I think this passage also teaches us what a church is supposed to be. There are many answers to the question, "What is a church?" but here's one: A church is a hospital into which sinners are welcomed and in which sinners find healing.

Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". The church is Dr Jesus's hospital. We are the nurses in the hospital. We Christians - we members of Jesus's church - care for the spiritually sick, while Dr Jesus heals them. If we don't welcome sinners, or if we don't care for them while they're in our church, they won't experience the healing they need, and we will have failed in our commission to go and make disciples.

To complete this analogy, we should to observe that some patients behave so badly that the hospital has to discharge them. And in the same way, a church can't tolerate very bad behaviour, and need to ask some people to leave. Also, some patients leave a hospital too soon, discharging themselves against the doctor's advice, and some people will leave a church before they receive enough healing to live well.

But the calling of every Christian is to nurse the spiritually sick, and the calling of every church is to be a hospital for the spiritually sick.

And when we fulfil our calling, sinners come to faith in Jesus Christ, their sins are forgiven, they're washed clean, and their spiritual state, their emotions and their bodies can be healed. And God is glorified. And the church's mission moves forward.

If you find this all a bit challenging, let me remind you that you, too, were once a lost sinner, who needed the love of the church in order to find the love of Christ. May we never forget these words:

Ephesians 2v1-5
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.