In worship on Sunday we talked about how the disciples Jesus called, like Peter, James and John, were “deadliest catch” kind of guys- tough, not-so-well-mannered, not your put on your “Sunday best” kind of guys. Shortly thereafter Jesus calls a whole other kind of “undesirable”. I just got home from watching my son play “Rooster Hannigan” in Annie at his school. He played a sketchy, loan-shark type, always looking for a quick dollar, slime ball a little too well. This is how I imagine the tax collectors, like Levi, whom Jesus calls. These guys were slimy. They were in cahoots with Rome, exploiting the poor for their well being. They were indeed, as the text indicates, sinners. No one liked them. And here comes Jesus, walking right up to his booth, and says, “come follow me”. He leaves and does.
There is a lot missing in this story. We don’t know what kind of back story Jesus and Levi have, if any, but something in Levi stirs about this man, and he leaves it all, and follows him. One of the things that I most admire about Jesus is how undiscriminating he is. He sees beauty in everybody. The only exception may be those who don’t see beauty in anybody (that is, the exclusive religious elite, whom he often refers to as a “brood of vipers”, among other things). But I think all it would take is just a smidgen of humility and he’d call out the beauty in them as well. There is certainly more to this story, but for me, that’s what shines: Jesus sees beauty where the world sees ugliness. Nobody is a lost cause. We love judgement in our world. We really do. The fruit of that tree is just too sweet to resist. But it’s killing us. It’s toxic. I struggle with this as much as anyone. I think it’s why I preach it so much- I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone else. We must be on a vigorous, aggressive, and intentional mission to find and call out the beauty in every one we meet.
This is not exactly how Brian Zahdn’s book intended this phrase, but it’s a big piece of what I took out it: “Beauty will save the world”. I believe that. I believe what will save us, is when we step into the mission Jesus lived and died for; a mission of finding and calling out beauty in everyone- even the Rooster Hannigans of the world. It is in this, it is in calling out beauty in all people that I believe beauty will save the world. So, let’s get out there, and start seeing people the way Jesus sees them.