Have y’all ever thought about how weird it was that Jesus chose the followers He chose? I’m sure as Christians in 2014, we can look back at the Gospel of John or read the book of Peter and conclude, “Umm… of course! Who else would you pick? Those guys were great!”
Sure, they were later… but not at first; far from it.
- Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen, not theologians. I would have crumpled up their resumes and (maybe) sent them an email saying, “You have not been selected for the position of disciple of the Messiah” because, let’s be real, nothing in the “Related Experience” section of their resumes would have convinced me that they were worthy of the job. But Jesus likes to do His own thing so He went ahead and hired them anyway.
- Then there was Matthew, the tax collector. Nobody liked tax collectors because they were sell outs. They were making a living off the Roman oppression of their own people. You can hear the crowd collectively booing them. But Jesus chose him.
- Then Jesus kept the party going by hanging out with prostitutes as well. In today’s world, we understand that there is a negative stereotype against women trapped in prostitution so can you imagine what it was like for them in Jesus’ day? But He cared about them anyway.
Through all of this, we see how well Jesus reflects God, the Father. In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was called to anoint a new King. While it made more sense to anoint a strong and mature man, God instructed him to anoint a young man named David who did not suit those standards at all. Even though there were other older, stronger guys, God knew the kind of man David would grow to become and that was why he was chosen.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Sometimes, we mistake where people are at for where they will always be. We forget that people grow and change. We forget that God molds the soul. We forget that God makes the spirit grow. If we were the ones choosing the disciples instead of Jesus, we might have picked the Pharisees and the book would have been way shorter because they would have killed him, like, day one.
I seriously dig Peter. He did things no one else can ever brag about doing and that was because he was given the opportunity to walk with Jesus. He became his best self on earth because he was given room to be just that.
How often do we give people room to grow and change? I have found growth and repentance hard in environments where people give me grief for changing my mind or revising any of my views on life.
Jesus told a really awesome parable in Matthew that truly drives home this point:
“Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”
The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do…”
It’s in the bible over and over again that we can’t just be all talk. Who we are at out core matters more than what we say or even what we look like today. It’s is about worshiping God, not saying, “I will worship God.” We have to have actual evidence of growth in our lives. Can I just give a couple of examples?
We, the church, need to foster an environment where people can come as they are, have enough room to be themselves and grow and change without the fear of being judged or trampled on. Our hearts need to be places of grace. When we can master that, it will flow out into our environments and into our interactions with people.
If we choose to make our hearts places of machine-like repetition of gospel truths, we can create an environment where people feel like they have to come as perfect people or not bother coming at all. The sad truth is it would only be a reflection of how we already relate to God.
We must remember that this is a journey for everyone or we will only ever be what we are today. I don’t know about you, but that sounds mad unfortunate to me.