“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” — Luke 5:32
When Jesus chose his disciples, he did some things people did not expect. Levi was a tax collector—part of a socially despised profession known for corruption and greed. Tax collectors were labeled as “sinners” by the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who were concerned with following their own interpretation of God’s law and avoiding “unclean” people or behavior.
Calling Levi to discipleship, Jesus challenged him to a totally new way of life. And in his response, Levi’s life changed forever. He left everything to follow Jesus. Levi also “held a great banquet for Jesus at his house,” and a crowd of tax collectors and others joined in. As we might guess, this attracted the criticism of the Pharisees.
It is tempting to limit our social circles to people who are mostly like us. Yet Jesus reveals his priorities when he responds to the Pharisees by saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He cared more about reaching people lost in sin than being criticized by self-righteous legalists. The result: lives changed for eternity.
The danger of piety is separatism. Our mission as Christ-followers is to engage the communities where we are planted. While we rightly separate ourselves from evil deeds, we must never isolate ourselves from people who have yet to meet Jesus and hear his good news.