When I was in middle school, my Youth Group did a costume party. I was a shy kid, but for me the idea of being dressed as someone I wasn’t gave me a sense of security and confidence. After days of searching, I found my costume. I would be going as SHAGGY from Scooby-Doo.
I had a blast! I don’t recall knowing they were doing this beforehand, but at the end of the night, a handful of kids where nominated for the “best costume” of the night. They let the room decide the winner by the loudest cheer. And I didn’t believe it, but I actually won “Best Costume”. I felt a little guilty because I beat some amazing hand-made costumes, and mine was just bought from the store… but I think I won because I hilariously fit the part. I was lanky. I was already 6ft tall, and my voice was all cracky. I was SHAGGY.
At this costume party, I had a great time; probably a lot more fun than I did on most youth nights. But looking back, I think it was because I used my costume to hide behind. I had many insecurities as a middle schooler. I was shy, I was quiet. And because of this, I constantly worried about people liking me for who I was. I wonder if any of you were like me and struggled with acceptance in this way? Maybe you still struggle with acceptance… maybe from others, or maybe even yourself? What if I told you that Jesus accepts you just as you are…
Levi the Tax Collector
In the Bible, in Mark Chapter 2, we’re introduced to this man named Levi, also known as Matthew. He was a Tax Collector. Tax collectors have never been popular, but at this time, tax collectors were despised by the culture. They were known as “traitors” because they helped the foreign government, and as “thieves” because often they would take more money than the tax required so they could pocket some extra cash for themselves.
Well in Mark 2:13-17, Let’s see Jesus’ encounter with Levi…
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.Mark 2:13-14
This was crazy. People in that day did not dare associate with people like Levi, yet here Jesus is saying I accept you. I care about you. In fact, Jesus goes to Levi’s house for dinner, and it created quite a stir…
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [with people they didn’t accept] 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”.Mark 2:15-17
Wow. What Jesus is saying is that he came looking for people like Levi. He wasn’t coming for people who pretended to be perfect, for people everyone wanted to be like. He didn’t come for people who had it all together… Jesus came for people who were not perfect, people who have issues. He came for the rejected and the hurting. The great news is that Jesus accepts people as they are! And He loves us enough to help us become better people along the way.
We are God’s masterpiece
I used to worry so much about winning the approval of others, but what changed the trajectory of my life is when I realized that Jesus already accepts me as I am. Someone who messes up. Someone who was really shy. Someone who has questions and doesn’t have their life all figured out… He accepts me for me.
One of my favorite verses in the bible, Ephesians 2:10, tells us that “…we are God’s masterpiece”.
This is amazing to me because when I think of a masterpiece, I think of a piece of art like the Sistine Chapel. Or in sports, like a Perfect Game. But when God thinks of a masterpiece, He thinks of you and me. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t have to worry about being perfect for Jesus to love me. He already loves me. He already loves us.
YOU don’t have to hide. You don’t have to pretend to have it all together, or act perfect, or even be popular in order for Jesus to accept you. He already does, and He wants a relationship with you… the real you. So the question is, do you want a relationship with Jesus? Will you, like Jesus asked Levi, will you follow him?
God loved you so much that He sent Jesus. You don’t have to be perfect. Jesus said it himself, he didn’t come for “healthy/perfect” people. He came for people like Levi, like me, like you. He is asking you to follow Him, to build a relationship with Him.
So, if like Levi the tax collector, you’re ready to start a relationship with Jesus, to follow him… just say yes.