At our lowest points in life, we often find out who our true friends are. You’ll find out who’s simply a fan of your life and who’s a friend. Fans come and go. Fans are fickle. Fans leave when it’s not convenient for them. But friends remain. And a lot of the time, they’re the people we least expect to stay.
For me early on, that friend was a kid named Jake. My best friend throughout elementary school, Jake was there when no one else was, showing me from the very beginning what a true friend looked like. I have him to thank for getting me through those first few years of school, and I can honestly say elementary school (not to mention, the rest of my life) would have looked so very different if it wasn’t for Jake and his amazing railroad-track haircut.
For a guy in the Bible named Levi, that friend was Jesus. Jesus invited Levi to be part of what he was doing, and in turn Levi invited Jesus into his house, and ultimately, his life.
Jesus didn’t look down on Levi when everyone else did, just like Jake didn’t make fun of me and my curly hair and brown glasses (elementary school me wasn’t all that stylish, okay?). But loving when it’s unpopular is more than just not being mean. Jesus challenges us to do more. It’s not enough to simply not be part of the problem. Jesus asks us to go further, he asks us to invite people in — into our friend group, into our home, into our life.
Who is it that you need to invite in?
One of your coworkers?
A family member?
The weird person in your class?
Someone who doesn’t really have anyone else?
Sadly, adults can often be worse than middle schoolers at lunchtime when it comes to inviting people into our lives. We have our cliques and groups, our preconceived notions. Like the kid who’s afraid that sitting with the nerd will make him a nerd, we’re afraid to reach out because of what it might say about us, afraid of what we might lose.
Think of that person in your life who has messed up. Maybe lost his job. Had an affair. Gone to rehab.
Once part of the popular clique and has now fallen from grace and landed on the outside.
Invite that person back in! Jesus stood with people, he invited them in. When others distance themselves, Jesus gets closer. Closer to the hurting person. Closer to the person who screwed up. Closer to the outcast.
Are you quick to run and hide when it’s not popular to stay? Quick to hope someone else reaches out so it doesn’t have to be your reputation on the line? Or, are you standing firm with someone, no matter what other people say? Are you inviting people in, not closing them off? Sadly Christians are often the worst at this. Not all, but some.
Just imagine what it would look like if we actually lived this out. What if Christians were known as people who got closer, if the church was known for caring about people instead of walking away from them.
Hurting people wouldn’t be left alone. People who made a mistake would know they weren’t defined by their mistake. At their lowest moments, people would be surrounded by love.
In our darkest days, we would experience the love of Jesus like never before.
Want to love like Jesus? Pursue the unpopular rather than pursuing popularity. Seek the unpopular kids (or grown adults) out. When someone screws up, be the person that gets closer as others are walking away. Associate with the non-cool kids or coworkers. Pursue the unpopular.
It’s amazing how much power there is in an invitation. Jesus was the best at making people feel like they belonged. The person who was different felt known. The person who felt left out was included.
Just to warn you, what happened to Jesus when he hung out with Levi will most likely happen to us, too (not sure what happened to Jesus? Hint: some Pharisees weren’t too pleased with what they saw). When we begin to pursue the unpopular, others will distance themselves from us. People will judge and criticize us. Some will walk away from us.
But who really cares? I mean, really. Be like Jesus anyway! Think of Jesus going to Levi’s house. Think of Jake hanging out with the unpopular kid, me. Think of those who have stood by you when no one else did.
And choose to love like that.
Originally published in Gritty Faith Volume 12: The Harvest. Read more here.
Gritty Faith Blog
GRITTY FAITH highlights the stories of fighters, survivors, dream chasers and determined warriors. Filled with the stories, photography and art of those in the trenches, our quarterly publication sparks authentic connections through conversation and art.