Levi was among the earliest disciples to follow Jesus and hosted a large dinner gathering for Him. Because Jesus was celebrity-like He attracted attention wherever He went and on this occasion, while He was inside with Levi, the Pharisees were outside watching. They were a religious group that fiercely opposed Jesus and condemned Him saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30).
Pharisee means “separate.” In the case of tax collectors, the Pharisees separated themselves, because according to their religious rules, the collectors were considered unclean. In modern day language, the Pharisees’ actions revealed the hate and intolerance in their heart.
The tax collectors were thieves and corrupt to the highest degree. However, the religious leaders responded with equal injustice. They barred the tax collectors from their synagogues, refused to touch, speak or be in their presence and taught that promises made to them were permitted to be broken.
When we return evil for evil, like the Pharisees did, nothing gets better, only worse. And springing from this, when we look down upon others because their race or views are different than ours there will be no hope for peace. The practice of separatism can lead toward bullying, oppression, racism, bigotry and to the extremes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Jesus is the answer to this inherit evil. He is the only religious figure in world history whose life and teachings break down walls of separation between people, and His death and resurrection provided the power to do it.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus, His Spirit does a supernatural work in our hearts that washes away our sins and gives us a new heart that is filled with God’s love for all people.
He modeled what this new heart looks like when He had dinner at Levi’s home. He went toward someone that was different than Himself and showed mercy and kindness, which He showed toward His critics too.
Following Jesus’ resurrection, He commanded His followers to take His good news to all people across the world, and do what He did with Levi. Consequently, the uniting message of Jesus has been taken to nearly every nation and territory on the earth and through Him people of different races, political leanings and religions have broken down the walls of division.
A prayer for you:
Lord God, as we look across our community, nation and world division is everywhere. Forgive me if I separate myself from those who are different than I am and look down upon them. Change my heart and help me to show mercy and kindness to all. By the power of Christ, let me be the change our world needs. In Jesus’ name, amen.