I love the specific requirements that Jesus lays out in Luke 5 for Levi to become one of His followers.
Sign Doctrinal Statement
First, Jesus makes sure that Levi can agree to the detailed doctrinal statement of Jesus. In order to make sure he agrees, Levi must attend a class to learn all the distinctives of the doctrinal statement, and then sign on the dotted line.
Second, Jesus makes sure that Levi knows how important it is to support the ministry and mission of Jesus by tithing 10% of his income. Once again, there is a class that Levi must attend which lays out the biblical basis for tithing and shows how the money will be used.
Spiritual Gift Inventory
Third, Jesus has Levi fill out a spiritual gift inventory so that Levi can know where he will best “fit in” to the family of Jesus’ disciples. Levi must then attend a class to learn about the various spiritual gifts, and be shown where the openings are. Of course, at this time, the only opening for Levi is with the Kindergarten Sunday school class, but Levi is reminded that everyone must start somewhere.
Fourth, Levi is instructed on all the sins that followers of Jesus must not commit, and told that if he commits any of these sins, he will be subject to “loving discipline.” If the sin is serious enough, he may even be asked to leave the fellowship of Jesus. After all, sin is very, very serious. Very.
Commit to Complete Obedience
Fifth, Levi is told that he must agree to do whatever Jesus asks, no matter what, and no questions asked. When Levi asks what sorts of things Jesus might ask him to do, the part about “no questions asked” is re-emphasized. Instead, Levi is told to always remember that Jesus loves him, no matter what, and so even if Jesus asks Levi to do something crazy and outlandish, it is for our own good. But we must agree to it before we know what He asks.
Sixth, Levi must get baptized. But first, he has to attend a four-week class on the meaning of baptism, after which, Levi will get baptized. Jesus will not actually baptize Levi (John 4:1-2), even though baptism is required. Also, Levi is instructed on the various methods and modes of baptism, and shown why all the other methods are nothing more than getting wet.
Seventh, Levi has to stand up in front of all the other followers and confess that he is leaving his old sins and his old friends, and is now going to read his Bible and pray every single day, memorize verses, and attend synagogue services every week.
Only after completing these seven steps is Levi ready to follow Jesus.
Actually, this isn’t quite how it happened.
No. The call of Jesus was this: “Hey Levi, you want to come along?”
That’s it. No conditions. No requirements. No signing on the dotted line. No compulsory consent to creeds. No necessary beliefs or behaviors. Not even a separation from his former friendships.
And most of all, no classes.
Does Levi make some changes? Sure he does. He leaves his job.
But is this something Jesus asked Levi to do? It doesn’t appear so. At least, not the text.
What demands are we making on people who we invite to join with us in fellowship? Vaguely stated, here is how it often sounds:
No, you can’t smoke that, drink this, or say these words. You shouldn’t go there, hang out with those people, or spend time doing that. And you must believe this and this, but not that. And for goodness sake, don’t do this, this, this, this, this, or this. Oh, and don’t forget to give us 10% of this, attend here this many times per week, sign this, learn that, and say this. Then you’re good to go.
How far we have strayed from the simple invitation of Jesus: “Come. Follow me.”
Today, He might say, “Hey! Let’s hang out.”