How many of you, while growing up, were told by your parents that people judge you based on the company that you keep? I know I was. I'm not saying that is untrue. It is most certainly true. When I was in high school I had a few friends that most parents would consider "undesirable." I had a few friends that were in trouble every weekend, that were arrested frequently, that had drug problems, that failed out or were thrown out of school. And I loved them dearly. When I moved back to town after chiropractic school, I found them again. A few are still giant messes. A few still struggle with problems with drugs and alcohol. I know what people may think when I am seen with them. But what other people said never mattered much to me. I think the heart of a person matters more than their actions...we all make mistakes, we even repeatedly make the same mistakes. So while everyone else was worrying about what effect my friends might have on me, I was hoping they might see the effect I have on my friends.
At New Hope we have started a new series. It's a study of the book of Mark and Sunday's sermon was another great one. We studied the second chapter (which you can read with a quick google search..it's not long) and there is one section in there that hit home for me. It is the section, verses 13-17, where Jesus call upon Levi and eats with "unfavorable." Levi was a tax collector in Capernaum. Taxes and tax collectors were just as hated then as they are now. They often made themselves rich at the expense of those around them. This, of course, doesn't matter to Jesus and he calls upon Levi to follow him. The following happens...
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Read that last verse again....
Maybe as Christians it is not our job to tell people what is right and wrong, but to love them in spite of their wrongs. Maybe we are not meant to look down on others, but rather to reach down to others and help lift them up, help influence them to make choices with more wisdom. Should I tell my friend the next time I see him drunk again that he needs to get his life together, should I lecture him about his mistakes or should I simply offer him a shower, a decent meal and a cup of coffee?
I struggle with that. I want to lecture. I want to point out fault. I want to direct and control and "fix" other people. But that doesn't work and I think I've gone about things the wrong way. I think maybe instead of being another person to point our failure, I should be the person that emphasizes the victories. That says words to help build up and not tear down. That is my struggle and what I've been thinking about over the last couple days. I am thankful for a church that has a message that makes me think about it for a few days. And I am thankful for my friends. Especially the ones that others don't love so much, because they help me to see the important things in life. So I will treasure my friends. I will trust them when others may not. I will do my best to help the Levis in my life cause I am sure at one point or another, I've been the Levi to someone else.