Recently I read again in Luke about Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector, to follow him. I’ve heard so many times that tax collectors were considered awful humans—willing to shake down old ladies, essentially steal from anyone as they saw fit, and rule their territories out of fear. The Jewish people considered them traitors.
After Jesus called Levi to follow him, he held a banquet for his new Leader and invited all his outcast friends to attend. There sat Jesus with this crew who not only the religious elite wouldn’t go near but neither would your everyday Joe. And the most shocking part, He was having a meal with them. In that time in history this meant He was making a covenant of friendship with these men. By doing so He had just told all those around Him that he accepted these men and in fact, many probably assumed He endorsed their behavior. But here’s the amazing thing, Jesus did not care about the perception. He saw a man that needed love and when that man invited all his friends, Jesus was bent on loving them too.
This has left me wondering how many times I have made certain decisions based off perception? And, if I am honest, I am afraid too many. How much have I missed out on because I was more concerned about the optics rather than the opportunity to love? Sadly, I have been stuck in the trap of appearances.
We agree to serve the poor, to help the widow, to love the orphan. But what about the criminal? The person who blurs the line between good and bad ethics? The one whose personal choices might seem rather questionable? Do we love on her or just turn and walk the other way because well, the perception could be ‘I am the company I keep’? Jesus wasn’t about the perception, He was about the person.
I want to be so much more concerned about the person that perception is a lost thought buried under a pile of love.
Lord help us all to make such decisions and to love all well, no matter how it might look. Help us to choose people over perceptions.