My daughter and I just read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I highly recommend it for parents and kids alike. It’s a middle grade novel about a boy named August who suffered from birth defects which left his face malformed and inhuman. In the book, August is 11 and is just starting 5th grade in a private school. It is his first school year away from the safe confines of his homeschool life with his mom, and he is understandably worried.
When the school year begins, August meets a lot of kids. Most are scared or disturbed by his malformed face. The kids pretend he has a disease they will catch if they get too close to him, so he’s left alone. Even among the misfits, August finds no real friends, until he meets Summer.
Summer is a cute, sociable 5th grade girl who sits with August, not out of pity, but out of curiosity. He’s the new kid at school, and she wants to get to know him. She learns that he’s funny, he’s creative, and he’s compassionate. The unlikely friendship is a huge risk to Summer, who wants to be popular, but Summer chooses loyalty to August instead of being with the in crowd. Despite the stigma attached to him, she is a faithful friend to an outcast boy.
When I read this book with my daughter, I was struck by the Christ-like imagery of this girl. She reached out to August, the misfit, the monster, the loser, and she loved him for who he was. It is the same with the Lord Jesus. At our lowest and most unlovable, Jesus meets our eye and beckons us to come be with him. His love for us isn’t tied up in our appearance, our performance, or our charm. His love for us is rooted in nothing but his own graciousness. It is unmerited, unearned, and undeserved, and he loves us freely and unconditionally for who he made us to be.
Think about the first disciples for a second. If Jesus chose his followers in the same way we do, whom would he have picked? He would have called Pharisees and Sadducees who were educated and powerful. He would have called centurions and governors who were connected and authoritative. He probably wouldn’t have stayed in Palestine. He would have moved to Rome where he would have had a bigger platform. But that wasn’t how Jesus called the first disciples, and it’s not how Jesus calls people now.
JESUS is for losers.
Jesus is an extraordinary man. I highlight who he was in posts which you can find here and here. When he called people, there was a purpose at work and a measuring stick that it atypical in leadership.
Look at Matthew 9:9.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
Matthew obviously didn’t need much convincing. Jesus didn’t offer 10 reasons why Matthew should follow him. He didn’t give Matthew any qualifications.
Jesus saw a tax collector. Others saw a despicable turncoat. Matthew saw God.
Jesus saw Matthew’s potential. Others saw Matthew’s sin. Matthew saw hope.
Society didn’t give Matthew a chance. He was ostracized and excluded. He was viewed as a thief and a traitor to his people. Matthew was undoubtedly a man of means which could open many doors in society, but he would never find true acceptance from his people or their Roman oppressors. Only Jesus accepted him for who he was and for what he could become.
Matthew left his tax collector life and became part of the inner circle of disciples. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name. He loved Jesus enough to leave his life extorting fellow Jews for the Roman government. His change was so profound that many Jewish leaders berated Jesus for socializing with sinners. Jesus’s response?
I have come not to call the righteous but sinners.
I have come not for those who think they’re winners but for those who know they’re losers.
I have come not to rub shoulders with the powerful but to empower the weak.
Jesus is FOR losers.
When you look at Matthew’s call, contrast it with the story of another person who wanted to follow Jesus. Matthew 19 says this:
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
This man was a winner. This man had the goods. He was rich, young, and powerful. Pastors around the world would fall all over themselves to have someone like this on their team. But Jesus offers a penetrating challenge to the man—
“It’s not what you have that makes you worthy. The only thing worth having isn’t a thing at all. It’s me.”It’s not what you have that makes you worthy. The only thing worth having isn’t a thing at all. It’s Jesus. Click To Tweet
Throughout the Gospels Jesus reiterates the theme that under our own power we cannot be reconciled to God. The measure of a person in the Kingdom isn’t in what we have or what we do. Instead it’s rooted in who Jesus is and what he’s done. Throughout the Gospels we see that Jesus is for the humble. He is for the weak and broken. He is for the last, the least, and the lost.
He is not for the religious elite. He is not for those who run their own lives. He is not for the self-made men and women.
Jesus is for LOSERS.
Look at Luke 18:9-14. Jesus tells us a parable about two men: a religious man who followed all the rules and a sinner.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The whole point of this discussion is summed up in this passage above. The people Jesus recruits are those who need him. When we claim we have it all together, we lie to ourselves and to God. Instead of putting our trust in the God who saves, we’re trying to save ourselves by our resume. It is only when we admit to God that we’re losers, that we’re desperate for him, that we find acceptance and redemption.
That is the mystery of the Gospel. When we die to ourselves, we find life. When we admit we’re empty, we are full. When we finally admit we’re losers, we win.
So now when I look in the mirror every morning I’ll say, “Hey, loser. Jesus is for you.” And that’s how I’ll win the day.
It’s hurtful to hear others say Jesus is for losers. Have you ever experienced that side of it? I have, and that’s why I turned it on its head. Please share below your thoughts and experienced on what it means that Jesus is for losers. And please subscribe to keep receiving updated blog posts and information about me. Thanks for reading!