When Jesus calls the tax collector, Levi, to follow him, Luke says he did – in the same way as the others: “…leaving everything he got up and followed him.” The next line indicates Levi’s delight and/or gratitude for being called. It says that he gave a great banquet for Jesus in his house and “a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.” The neighbors (Pharisees and their scribes) started complaining because of the company Jesus was keeping. I started thinking about that and it came to me that in our day that line might have said, “A large group of IRS employees and others were at table with them” and the inference might be the same depending on the feelings of the neighbors about the government or the tax code. Jesus dismissed the criticism, of course, and continued to eat with all sorts of people – many more shady than tax collectors.
The point of this for me is the reminder that what is important is the heart of a person which we can only get to know if we’re close enough to hear it beating. In other words: don’t judge a book by its cover – or a person by looks or reputation or hearsay. Lent might be a time to examine whether there is anyone I know whom I exclude simply because of externals or what people might say about him/her. If I find any such people, perhaps I should invite them to dinner.