Beneath the chest-beating bravado of this world I believe many people are asking a plaintive question. It is a question that enters into the depths of who we are when no one is looking. It addresses the world between our ears, not the life that others see. It is an existential question that addresses our path in life not only in how we view ourselves but how we relate to others. Yet, it is a simple question.
How could God really care about me?
It is true that our culture demands that everyone be ‘correct’ and that no matter your lifestyle, practices, habits or morals we are all OK. If you disagree, then it is up to you to figure out a way to keep your opinions to yourself so that I can continue on thinking that there’s nothing wrong with me. Maybe one of the greatest horrors of our time is to suggest that there is something wrong about someone. We may even feel a little insulted to be reading those words.
But in our quiet moments when life hasn’t worked out like we had hoped or when painful experiences bring tears to our cheeks we silently wonder what is broken in our life – and how can it be repaired? The ongoing problem with bullying is not new, but it still hurts deeply. When someone bullies us it tells us that we do not measure up and, worse, that we deserve to be mistreated. The devastating effects of this treatment are well known. Have you experienced the feelings of rejection from a divorce? Maybe you’ve lived through the disappointment of ongoing addiction. Perhaps even the stabbing pangs of grief when we have lost someone we love. The unexpected twists of life cause us to reflect on our own journey through life and ponder the reality that our lives aren’t what we thought they might be by now.
It seems like God really doesn’t care about me.
I wonder if Matthew felt something like that. He certainly knew what it felt like to be looked down upon by others. His own people rejected him and thought of him as a traitor. The people he worked for didn’t care for him at all – he could be replaced if he caused any trouble. He regularly interacted with the people of his city but seldom saw a smile. In fact, as a tax collector he probably experienced his fair share of curses and glaring hatred. Day by day he saw them scowl at him and treat him like a thief. I wonder what he felt like as the darkness of the evening descended around him once he returned home. Stuck in a career he hated but not trained to do anything else. Like someone working at a cell-service provider call center he would hear complaints and hateful speech all day long. And when the sun comes up the next day he’s in for more. How could Matthew believe that God cared about him?
And then one day a man spoke to Matthew without hatred or anger. Even more, he spoke to him with a clear and distinctive compassion. Not only was his voice a kind one in a sea of insults, he made an amazing request. “Follow me.” Given the misery of Matthew’s tax collection table, it didn’t take much convincing. Next thing you know they are back at Matthew’s house eating lunch and talking. Matthew decided to bring along some of his friends…. other misfits and unacceptable people. To use a Brennan Manning term, the Ragamuffins.
Can you imagine that conversation? When Jesus talked everyone knew that he was not just an average guy from town … there was something about him that they couldn’t quite determine. For one thing he was so completely comfortable with them. Can you see his smile? Do you think Matthew and his collection of misfits felt differently when he looked at them than they did when the Scribes looked at them? Totally different. The Scribes were smart, religious, powerful, authoritative … and also frowning, dismissive, rejecting Matthew and his riff-raff friends. The Scribes left them feeling that God didn’t really care about them. But when Jesus ate at Matthew’s house a new experience belonged to them.
It seems like God really does care about me after all.
Not that God was unaware of the messes gathered around that table. If anyone knew, Jesus knew. He knew what was in a man. In the presence of this room of sinners the Great Physician was at work bringing healing to the disease that plagued them all.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” ~Mark 2:17
So how do I know that God could love me… love you … right now where we are in life? Because he didn’t come to find people who already had it together. He came to find the screw-ups and help them get their life back on track for now. He came to cure us of our sin sickness so we could be healed forever in eternity and live with Him forever.
Next time you get to thinking that God doesn’t really care about you, think back to that lunch at Matthew’s house. Jesus could have eaten at anyone’s house he wanted … but he chose to sit down with people just like me and you. To the bullied, beaten, embarrassed, insulted, disappointed, and left-behind, God sends his love in the form of a man named Jesus. He was a man of sorrows who knows just what you’re going through. He was beaten, abused, and killed … but rose again and now lives to give you life. You can trust Him. He knows.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ~John 3:16, 17
How could God love me? I really can’t answer the question. But I can tell you with great assurance … He does. What happened to Matthew? About twenty years after Jesus resurrected from the dead, he wrote one of the biographies of Jesus – the one that bears his name. It’s the first writing in your New Testament. From there legend tells us that he went to Ethiopia to share the faith and there he was martyred. He died for the man who called him up from that tax collectors table and gave him a new life … and eternal life.
He’s calling you from your life to a new hope.
Thanks for reading, JD.