Jesus is for losers

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.

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!

40 thoughts on “Jesus is for losers

  1. Chip, this sounds like a fabulous book to read with a child, with lots of good material for thoughtful discussion and learning. At church this morning our pastor preached about this very thing – about how Jesus invited such a motley crew to be His disciples. In addition to the disciples you refer to Jesus also included Simon the Zealot, Thomas the doubter, Peter who denied Him, John who was likely a teenager at the time, Judas who betrayed him … What a crew of misfits – including some of whom (like Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector who worked for the Romans) would have seriously disliked one another! What hope it gives us to know that in our brokenness and sinfulness Jesus, through the Cross, invites us to be His apprentices and part of HIs kingdom! Thanks for your article!

    1. That’s good stuff, Anne! You’re totally right. I had never considered how the Zealot and the tax collector would be natural enemies. It’s amazing that Jesus held the group together. It’s a testament to how life-changing it must have been. It also highlights the need for our current church to be diverse in thought, in race, in age, in gender, in socioeconomics, and every other way. What a wonderful, messy mosaic!

  2. Great article…loved the example of Matthew the tax collector. This brought to mind the story of Mephibosheth…the son of Jonathon eating at the kings table with deformed feet(2 Samuel)

    My favorite line…It is only when we admit to God that we’re losers, that we’re desperate for him, that we find acceptance and redemption.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I really appreciate your comments, Sunshyne. I had also forgotten about Mephibosheth. He definitely experienced the king’s grace. We’re no different. Broken, maimed, and forgotten by the world, we’re at the king’s table by his grace. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’ve never heard that song! Thanks for sharing. I’ll check it out. I got the concept from a professor in college. It had a profound effect on me when I was 19. Maybe he got it from Steve Taylor…

    1. It was a great book! I recommend it to anyone with kids in middle grades.
      Regarding Jesus, yes, he is inclusive of those that the world neglects or ignores altogether. I’m so grateful for his grace.

  3. Hi Chip!

    I loved to read stories with my son when he was a little boy, too.

    Sure, Jesus did not look for status or fame when he picked his followers.

    I use different words, but I’m basically saying the same because as I see it, one of the main points in Christianity is that there’s little good and valuable found in human.

    We need to move focus from ourselves towards Jesus, and towards other people, that’s where the value is.

    That’s something very different from the self-centred culture we live in today.

    Edna Davidsen

    1. Hi, Edna. I think you’re spot on. Jesus never called us to a personal faith. He never called us to a keep a secret. He called us to proclaim the good news of his love for us to any who would listen, regardless of who they are: rich, poor, loners, socialites. Jesus loves them all and wants us to as well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    1. Yes they do, Scott. All people are made in God’s image. We’re called to love what God loves. And since God’s taste in people is different than mine, I need my heart to change. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Hi Chip,

    Such an inspiring post! Teach us to be meek, cognizant, and love unconditionally! Well done my amazing friend! Thank you kindly and can’t wait to read more of your posts when I’m rested and fully recovered! Have a beautiful evening and take care! God bless!!!

    1. Hey, Cristy! I don’t know what you’re recovering from, but I’m praying for you. Thanks for reading and commenting. And yes, we should strive to be meek and to love unconditionally.

  5. Yes! Jesus is for losers. Some may see this as a condemning comment, but we (losers) who trust Jesus can see it as a compliment. This reminds me of another derogatory saying, “Jesus is a crutch.” He us. And I’m proud to lean on Him for my support. And because I’m a loser I need the Lord in order to be a winner. This is such a great post, Chip!

    1. Thanks, Marcie! I totally agree. Jesus welcomes me when the world rejects me. Jesus helps me when the world hurts me. I’m so glad it’s not because of anything I’ve done. That wouldn’t get me anywhere!

  6. This is exactly what my pastor preached on this past Sunday! He didn’t use the same words, but the message was the same. Great post, Chip – as always.

    1. Thanks for reading, Heather! I really appreciate your comments. I’m rarely original, but this is a message I need to remember. I’m glad it’s consistent with what you’re learning in church.

  7. Great post, Chip. I’ve been meaning to read Wonder. I understand it shifts the narrative perspective around. Aside from the moral elements of the story, that also sounds interesting. If Jesus weren’t for losers, I know I wouldn’t have any chance at all in life. Thanks for great reminders of His unfailing love. God bless!

  8. What a special post! I love that Jesus opens his arms for everyone. I’ve heard of Wonder, but I haven’t read it, so I’ll definitely be adding it to my reading list! Thanks for sharing this message.

  9. This is a God-ordained read fore me because I just rewatched (and recried over) the movie version of Wonder. Ours a beautiful story of identity and acceptance. Beinga confident optimist, I don’t recall ever calling myself a loser and I can’t imagine ever doing so, but there is certainly room for Jesus to be the object of my confidence and optimism. Thank you for this heartfelt post.

    1. You’re welcome, Stephen. Thanks for reading. I’m glad it was timely for you.
      It didn’t sit well with me when I first heard “Jesus is for losers”. I was 19, and I considered myself far from being a loser. But, that’s the center of the Gospel. I have to lose my life to find it. I have to be a “loser” to win in the end. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  10. Hey Chip,

    You drive home the point there’s power in story whether fiction or non-fiction. The book “Wonder” sounds so amazing.

    I think today we often miss it like the people during Jesus’ ministry. It may be who culture calls losers or the outcast or those not accepted or invited in. And it can be the ordinary person or the person who is deemed extraordinary by popular standards. But none of that matters by kingdom standards.

    Jesus came to rescue misfits.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    1. As always, Karen, thanks for reading and commenting. We are such a group of misfits, huh? The Church is so beautiful and messy. Sometimes it’s aggravating, but most of the time it’s a clear picture of God’s Kingdom. I’m so thankful that Jesus cared to go after the unimpressive. It means I’m in good company.

  11. Hi Chip, I loved this post! And I love how God doesn’t use us for His kingdom work because of us, but in spite of us! Great line…The only thing worth having is Jesus. Another way I have heard that verse reframed is: Jesus did not come to call those who think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners. Jesus is definitely for losers, the chief of which am I. Thank you, forever Jesus, that you went trash picking for me.
    By the way, the book Wonder is truly wonderful. Read is with my 4th grade class a few years ago. Another book they loved was The One and Only Ivan. Maybe you and your kids might enjoy that one, too. God bless you, your family and your ministry!

    1. Hi, Melissa! Thanks for reading and commenting. You’re so right. Those who know they’re sinners are the kind of people that Jesus justifies. It’s like that parable with the Pharisee and the tax collector. It probably wasn’t fiction. I’m sure Jesus saw those exact same behaviors time and again just like we have today.
      I’ve heard of The One and Only Ivan. I don’t know anything about it, but I have wanted to check it out. I’ll pick it up for my kids. Thanks for the recommendation!
      Also regarding Jerry Spinelli, that’s incredible! I love Maniac Magee. It’s one of my favorites from my own 5th grade year almost 30 years ago. Let me know how I can get his autograph 🙂

      1. Yes, Maniac Magee is another Jerry Spinelli favorite! I am not in touch with him any more. but I will check around to see if he has any local book signing events. If I have good news, I will let you know. I love that you still remember that book! I think I have read every single one of his books. If you get a chance, check out Loser. The character was based on one of his own sons. One of his recent books, Stargirl has been made into a Broadway show. Can you believe that? Best of all, in addition to being an incredibly gifted writer, Jerry Spinelli is a genuine, gentle, kind and humble man. He is a great inspiration!

  12. Chip, one more suggestion for a possible read aloud with your kids. “Loser” by Jerry Spinelli. He is an amazing author who lives not far from us. He visited my class while I was still teaching. I love and recommend all of his books, but Loser is my favorite.

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