Luke 5: After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors and we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Everybody wants to know what Jesus would do. People almost think that WWJD is a biblical quote. From the way many people talk about doing what Jesus would do it seems that Jesus wouldn’t like our style of church services, wouldn’t dress like us, wouldn’t talk about sin and hell very much and He would only hang around young upwardly mobile folk. There is a great tendency to make Jesus look like us even when we ask what He would do. But we see Jesus doing something here that would be very good for all of us to seek to imitate.
Jesus ate with sinners.
Christians should not be people who isolate themselves from sinners, from people who do not know Christ. We are called to flesh out the Gospel. We are called to make disciples and we will not do that if we do not socialize with sinners. Inviting people to meetings is a good thing to do but it is not how we are called to flesh out the Gospel. It is not how we will be like Jesus.
One of the greatest tragedies of the church is how we have managed to ghettoize believers. We over programme, over schedule church activities so that it is almost impossible for Christians to get to know their neighbours. If our neighbours knew where it is that we are always driving off to, they wouldn’t want to come – it doesn’t leave us much time for anything else. Why join a church that is taking us away from home so much? The place where the saints meet is meant to be a place where we worship and fellowship. We have turned Christian service in the church into an attempt to exhaust the saints. We are to worship together. We are to fellowship together. We are to eat the Lord’s Table together. And when we break away from our various gatherings we are to eat with sinners.
We are to show them Christ in how we behave and they cannot see how we behave if they are not with us. This means eating with and praying over our food when we eat with them, even if they don’t. It means being forgiving and loving even when they are sniping at each other. It means not joining in on the gossip when it is how they talk. It means helping them and telling them we pray for them. It is listening to them with a caring ear because we really do care and are not just seeing them as potential converts. It means loving them even if they never come to Christ.
It means being such people that they want to eat with us. Jesus never let people get away with sin and yet they wanted to be with Him. Who can you think of who you like to spend time with who you knows really cares about you and lets you know when you do what is wrong? That is a real friend and that is what we are called to be. We spend time with them because they are our friends and we enjoy being in their company. They are people, not projects. This takes time.
People with great sin loved to eat with Jesus even though He let them know that they were sinners. They knew He loved them. It has been said that the average believer in North America has no non-believing friends two years after they have been converted. That is a tragedy of great proportion. Keep your non-Christian friends. If they go where you cannot then let them know you’ll see them later.
Eat with sinners.