And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this scripture wrote, “It is probable that Matthew was but a loose extravagant young man, or else, being a Jew, he would never have been a publican. However Christ called him to follow him. . . With God, through Christ, there is mercy to pardon the greatest sins, and grace to sanctify the greatest sinners. Matthew, that had been a publican, became an evangelist, the first that put pen to paper, and the fullest in writing the life of Christ. Great sin and scandal before conversion, are no bar to great gifts, graces and advancements after; nay, God may be the more glorified.” (early 18th c.)
I read an interview today. It was about a really bright young man who was living one ugly life (he might not have said it was ugly; there were things he liked about it). He went to prison because of his ugly life. When he was there, he found a Bible in the trash can. As he began to read it, he couldn’t square his life with what the Bible said. He knew it was “ugly life that I like” vs. God. God won. Christ called him. And he rose up and followed him.
I love stories like these, don’t you? They are the stories the stuff of our faith is made of.
It’s good and important to remember that God’s call is personal–you have been called and so have I–even if our stories may be of a quieter kind. The story of God’s people has always gone thus: He has called us and (thanks be to God!)–we have rose and followed him.
“Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord, that could not be;
this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me hast cleansed and set me free;
of old thou hast ordained me, that I should live to thee.”
Josiah Conder, 1836
“And if you hand us the heavy cup, the bitter one, of sorrow, filled to the highest brim, then we take it thankfully, without trembling, from your good and loving hand.” D. Bonhoeffer