A negative comment will leave me crying for days. A person doubting me will send me into a spiral of doubt and confusion. My fear of criticism often keeps me from following my dreams. And yet, Jesus invites all who follow him into adversity. As Levi sat down with Jesus, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to question Jesus’ choice to eat with Tax collectors. I always marvel at this part of the story, because if someone doubted my ability to sit with Jesus, I would believe them. I can tell you all the reasons, why I am not worthy of God’s love. I can list my shortcomings in rapid succession. So if someone were to say, Jesus why are you sitting with her, I would meekly offer my seat to anyone who seemed more worthy.
When Jesus calls us to follow him, opposition is always close behind. The Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law questioned Jesus’ choice of dinner guest because he was threatening the status quo. They thought he should have been eating with them. Instead, Jesus chose the very people they had excluded from religious life, elevating the tax collectors and sinners. This decision threatened the Pharisees and Teachers of the Laws' power. Following Jesus always requires us to threaten the status quo. Whether we are caring for the poor, introducing the outcast to Jesus are bringing God’s kingdom to a previously dark location, following Jesus threaten those in power. And that will always produce opposition. That opposition will often question our credentials to follow Jesus.
My first year at UGA, a student, who was a leader in another ministry, said, “A Bible study led by a student will never work in a fraternity or sorority, God can’t reach those people.” Ironically, this woman was a member of a sorority. When I questioned her opinion, she asked, “Who are you anyway, to come here? You don’t know UGA. Our ministries are all led by men who have been doing this for a while.” The idea that Jesus could go into the Greek System threatened her standing as the “only good girl” in her sorority. She didn’t want to lose that power. She lashed out by questioned the ability of God to call a young woman to follow him into ministry. When we choose to follow Jesus, critics will show up. They will cause us to doubt that Jesus called us.
Jesus doesn’t make us face that opposition alone. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. He didn’t make Levi “prove” his devotion. Jesus didn’t ask Levi or the disciples to correct the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees. Instead, he addressed the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law, making sure they knew he had called Levi. Just like Levi, when people come to criticize us, doubting whether we are the ones Jesus called, Jesus steps in. My first several years on campus, another campus ministry's staff routinely questioned my decision to follow Jesus into ministry. The team would tell me that a woman couldn’t be a minister, that I couldn’t possibly understand men. When I got married, their staff even accused me of not being a Christian. Their staff would talk to my fraternity students, saying, “You know it’s against the bible for Paula Frances to lead you, so you should come to our ministry.” All of these comments hurt and I started to doubt that I had followed Jesus into ministry. I questioned whether or not God could use me and often prayed for Greek InterVarsity to hire a man to take my place on campus. One day, a minister from this ministry approached one of my fraternity leaders. The leader said, “I’ve attended almost every ministry. And it’s only been Greek InterVarsity where I've learned how to be a leader in my fraternity. The fact that my ministry is thriving is because God is using her. God didn’t leave me to suffer opposition alone but spoke through this young man. His words made it clear that I was called to follow Jesus.
Adversity is not proof of unworthiness, but an invitation to trust that Jesus called us to follow him.
This is the final post in a three part series. The first post is "What if he Meant Me?"