Accept One Another

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The Pain of Rejection
The Gospels are filled with endless stories of Jesus’s encounters with overlooked and undervalued people, where he accepted them and showed them their value. It's what led him to sit down with the woman at the well. Everybody else avoided her, and none of the women even wanted to walk with her. Most people only saw four failed marriages when they looked at her, but Jesus saw a testimony in the making. Jesus opened up her life and had a real conversation with her. After this conversation and interaction, this woman, that nobody would even talk to, ended up being the one who shared the gospel with her entire community. Accepting and valuing people is also what led Jesus to Zacchaeus. Everyone else saw Zacchaeus as a corrupt and sleazy man. But unexpectedly, Jesus stated that he would be coming to Zacchaeus’s house. After spending time with Jesus, he ends up giving over half of his finances in that moment and most history would tell you that he becomes one of the bishops in Caesarea.  Seeing people’s value is what led Jesus to talk to Nicodemus. Most of the religious people of the day admired him and thought he was doing everything right by following all the rules. But Jesus’s disciples saw Nicodemus as arrogant, self-righteous, and only caring about his rules. They couldn’t stand Nicodemus, but Jesus saw something else. He saw a God-story in the making. He spent time with him. Then, when Jesus was later crucified, only two people took Jesus's body off the cross and prepared it for burial. Who were they? One of them was Nicodemus.  1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The great news that we learn through these stories in the Gospels is that Jesus cares about and accepts everyone, no matter their standing in society, the sins they have committed, or how the rest of the world perceives them.  Discussion/Reflection Questions: When have you accepted and valued someone that others did not? What did this change for that person?
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Getting Others to Jesus
Luke 5:29-30 states, “Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” The Pharisees were in shock at the people that Jesus associated with and gathered around a table to share a meal. In fact, these are just the type of people that they’ve been trying to keep at arm’s length and away from the “good people” of the community. The word Pharisee actually means to be separated from; that's the sec they're talking about in the previous passage. This group of Pharisees had pulled themselves away because they considered themselves to be the holy ones and set apart.  In the minds of the Pharisees, everybody else was in the way and messing up their culture. They wanted Jesus to know that these people that he was eating with were not worth his time or energy. But we read in verses 31-31 that Jesus replied to their judgement and questions. “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’”  Jesus spoke out against many things during his ministry, and one of the things most frequently mentioned by him was pride. These Pharisees were prideful about their rank and position in society and saw themselves as being much more holy and better than the likes of tax collectors. Jesus recognized this pride in their hearts though and challenged their beliefs about who was to be accepted and valued. Levi, on the otherhand, was getting his friends and acquitances to Jesus, no matter who their standing in society. Discussion/Reflection Question: When in your life have you acted like a Pharisee and let your pride convince you that you were above someone else?
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Seeing Others as Gifts
Levi would have been ostracized by many in his community for his role as a tax collector. But once others saw how Levi was being treated and accepted by Jesus, people started looking at Levi differently. By this time, he's starting to go by the name too; Matthew. Some people think that's because Jesus gave Levi a new name since the name Matthew translates to “gift of God”. Other people simply saw Levi the tax collector when they looked at him initially, but Jesus saw Matthew. Matthew became an apostle, a disciple, and even a Gospel writer. It all started because of his acceptance by Jesus, which led to his acceptance of Jesus as his Savior.  It doesn't matter if you were set to the side by other people in your past. It doesn't matter if you were stuck in a corner and felt stuck in your circumstances. Jesus sees you as a gift. He sees you as a testimony waiting to happen. He sees us as a God-written story in the making, so he takes us in and he brings us close. He loves us. He values us. We all have access to the heart of Jesus, and we discover that the more time we spend with him, the more we learn and experience God's unfathomable love. Through this, we are able to realize our worth in him, in addition to our purpose and our value. And if this how Jesus has accepted us, he has set the example of what it looks like to accept one another too. Discussion/Reflection Questions: When in your life have you been treated as a gift or a treasure by someone else? How did this make you feel?