9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?[c]”
12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[d] For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” — Matthew 9:9-13
Jesus showed Levi/Matthew what it meant to follow Him: first you belong, then you believe and finally you’ll behave.
Jesus first let Levi know first and foremost that he BELONGED. Jesus let him know He loved him regardless of his behavior and sin and choice to follow Him or not.
Secondly, something that followed naturally from receiving the unconditional love of Jesus is that people BELIEVED. Levi and other “sinners” like him didn’t have to believe in Jesus BEFORE they were shown His love and compassion. Rather, they believed BECAUSE of it.
And only after the belonging and the believing comes the third step—behaving. Because Levi belonged, it led him to believe. Because he believed, he started behaving right. The Holy Spirit convicts him to clear up his act.
As the most spiritually mature person to ever live, Jesus stands as the model for what a spiritual life looks like. He remained approachable to outsiders and the hurting.
Jesus didn’t say, “change and you can join me.” He said, “join me and you will be changed.”
Jesus showed that first you belong, then you believe and finally you’ll behave.
Close your time in prayer.