Islam demands submission before the possibility of salvation is given. Hinduism demands piety before fruitful reincarnation. Buddhism demands balance before peace can be achieved. In this life, I find that I am utterly incapable of perfection. Because I cannot achieve perfection, I am unable to submit wholly to God on my own. I am incapable of perfect piety, and balance in life is elusive at best. The greatest fact in life and the greatest realization I can make is that I cannot get to God by my own action or even by my own belief. This is the great downfall of every major religion. Somehow, it requires that we do something to make it to God. Sometimes, in our fallen-ness, we even attempt to create a Christianity where people somehow have to be good enough to make it to God. This is impossible because we are not equal to God. It is a foolish pursuit for anyone either by word or deed or belief to try and earn his way.
Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.
While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The person of Jesus
Here is what amazes me about the Christian faith: Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus was God and was with God, and was instrumental in creation (John 1). It tells us that Jesus bore our griefs, was pierced for our transgressions and justified many before God (Isaiah 53). Scripture even tells us that Jesus was the messiah (Mark 8:29) and the Son of the living God (Luke 22:70).
It amazes me that Jesus would be born as a man, walk the earth with people, teach people about Himself and then die so that people would be reconciled to God. A Biblical Christian faith is so vastly different from all other faiths on the face of the planet, in that God did all of this for us without our submission, without our piety and without our being well balanced. When we think about having a messiah who Himself is God and who did all He did, even dying on a cross, we arrive at the outstanding conclusion that God is truly a God who depends not on humankind.
Islam demands submission to both God and Muhammad. Muhammad is not God, yet people are to submit to him. Other than this, God depends wholly on the submission of individuals to determine who might be given a place in paradise. To be a Muslim is to believe that people have some degree of control and to believe that there is an authority other than God. To be a Hindu is to believe that piety or devotion can actually earn people a place of acceptance among the gods. To be a Buddhist is to be entirely concerned with self.
To be a Christian is to believe that God, not depending at all on people, came to the earth and provided a path to Himself and offered entry as a free gift. This seems the only logical way a truly independent God would choose to deal with a sinful humanity. This is breathtaking and mind-shattering. God, the true living God, is awe-inspiring.
Jesus calls Levi
In the passage above, this Messiah was in the midst of a crowd of people. He saw Levi, a lowly tax collector likely despised by the entire Jewish community for selling out to the Roman Empire who lived among the worst of sinners, and said, “Follow me.”
Jesus’ statement was not based on Levi’s character. It did not demand Levi’s complete submission. It did not demand piety. It did not even demand balance in Levi’s life. The only requirement was a response, and Levi stood and followed Jesus.
The great reality is that we are all fallen people. We are imperfect. If God required that we somehow submit to Him, live a pious or a balanced life on our own power, not one person would ever please God enough to make it. The good news for us is that God does not depend on us whatsoever. Even in our sinfulness, God sent His Son to provide a way. Consequently, Christ is the only way because any other way places the responsibility of salvation on the shoulders of the human race; and not one is good enough.
So if any of us think that somehow our actions can keep us from God, remember that He does not depend on us. We cannot be too vile or too sinful. We only need to respond to God as He calls out to us, “Follow Me.”
Righteous vs. sinner
Christ was later found eating at Levi’s house with all of Levi’s friends and with some of the crowd that had been following Him. According to Mark, some of the religious leaders stood out and questioned Him for dining with sinners. Jesus overheard them, and responded to them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
There are a great many people today like these religious leaders. There are people in the western church that stick up their noses and actually have the nerve to try and condemn people for sinful action. They claim to follow Christ and to be godly, forgetting entirely that the reason Christianity even exists is because God cared about sinners! It is no wonder people are leaving and the Church in America is dying. It does not love sinners. I have a feeling that if Jesus were a regular member in one of our churches, we would see Him eating with sinners and we would be the “religious leaders” scoffing at Him.
Let us realize that Jesus specifically said that He did not come to call the righteous. If we think that our submission or our piety actually means something, I am afraid that we have missed it. Being a Christian means that we admit we are imperfect and undeserving. It means we do not have what it takes to be with God. It means we trust Christ, not ourselves. We are all sinners in need of a savior. Let us not become the self-righteous religious people whom Christ would reprimand.
My conclusion is simple. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God’s arms are wide open; you only need to respond. For those who already have a relationship with Christ: let us not forget the love that God has for us and for all others. If we find it difficult to live a Godly life, let us remember that God depends not on us. His love overcomes our sinfulness every day. While we should strive for right action (action that glorifies God), our mistakes do not dictate God’s love. His love is ever present and ever faithful.
 Mark 2:13-17 (HCSB)