Imagine your best friends hanging out. Think about the things you do with them, the inside jokes you have, the conversations that you’ll never forget, or the days that brought you closer. This must be something like Jesus and his Apostles.
When I imagine the Apostles hanging out with Jesus, I picture them laughing loudly, slapping each other on the back, while maybe some are joking around with the youngest disciples, breaking some bread, and listening to some music from the streets below through the open windows, and others hang back or loom in the corners to have conversations or catch up with each other’s’ lives. But there’s one little descriptor in the list of the Apostles that makes me think there may be more to it than that.
Among these friends, brothers, and fisherman, there was a man named Matthew, also known as “Matthew the tax collector.” From Sunday school, you probably remember that tax collectors weren’t very well-liked. And in Sunday school, amongst your friends, there was probably someone you didn’t like all that much either. Or maybe you thought they were weird or had cooties. Either way, they seemed to be a bit outcast. Until reflecting on this a bit more recently, I had never stopped to consider how one “unpopular” guy might have affected this tight-knit group of small-town best friends
Do you ever wonder if maybe it wasn’t just Matthew who didn’t fit in? There was Simon, who you might remember was dubbed Simon the Zealot (big yikes), James, nicknamed, “the Lesser,” (also not that great) and finally Judas Iscariot (just, well, yeah). And you can be sure James, John, Peter, and Andrew brought their sibling rivalries to the group. I can guarantee that if my sisters and I were them, we would bring our bickering about clothes going missing to the friendly gatherings as well.
On top of that, you have individuals who are different ages and have personalities, levels of education and depth of faith, and then, all of a sudden, their crowd looks a lot like one you might feel closely bound to. Maybe a grade at school? Maybe your coworkers in the office? Relatives, friends, or parish communities?
In my own circles, I am guilty as charged for wanting to exclude girls I find to be ehhh a bit.. well, annoying, i guess is the best way to put it. I've been guilty of trying to cut a conversation short with an acquaintance I deemed tiresome. I’ve put up some selfish barriers in the name of my so-called sanity instead of fully loving someone through their hard time. Maybe (hopefully) I’m not the only one. I'm working on it though.
But I’m convinced that we can make this thing called community work—even with our various personalities, worship preferences, hair colors, and job titles—because the disciples did. Despite their differences, they all had Christ in common, and so do we.
So what now? What if we feel like we aren’t including the Matthew of the group? Or maybe the Simon, or Judas, even? In common terminology, the DUFF, the nerd, someone who doesn’t drink, or maybe depending on the group, someone who does?
It seems that maybe we have over complicated the idea of what it means to be loving like Jesus. I have to imagine that the disciples felt tension sometimes, but the thing is, they look past it. They see the child of God within them. They live and love and exist abundantly for the glory and praise of the one who did it for us.
I challenge you to dig a little deeper in to your own life, to examine your story, and then to learn about “your Matthew’s” story. Lean in, listen hard. Discover the depths of what they are, who they have become, and where they want to go. Who knows, maybe the two of you could cast a stone large enough to rattle the world.