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Qualified through Belonging

It was fall and the campus was full of life with more than 25,000 students roaming the grounds heading to and from class. Freshman looked like the teens they were, especially in comparison to the seniors. So many young people trying to find their place.

A young woman sat in the little chapel in the center of this state university. Alone. Lost. Confident only of the fact that she had no idea where she belonged. Abandoned by her new friends. She was miles from home. Yet, this place felt like another world, not just another state. Her poor choices led her to this chapel.

What are your qualifications?

The definition of belong is “to have proper qualifications, especially social qualifications, to be a member of a group.”

That young woman in the chapel made some poor decisions disqualifying her from being a part of the group. Have you ever felt this way? Something about you doesn’t “qualify” you for acceptance? Or maybe you have been the one disqualifying others? Perhaps you are like most of us—we can relate to both. After all, sometimes people do things that seem to be just too much to accept.

In chapter 5 of Luke, there is a shady character that has pretty much disqualified himself from any kind of belonging. He’s made such poor choices that his own people view him as a traitor. Poor decision after poor decision has him on the outskirts. He was a tax collector. And in that day, tax collectors never collected the amount they were supposed to, they almost always took more. And it didn’t matter if the person being taxed was young or old, in good or bad health, financially comfortable or financially struggling—when the tax collector came, you gave him what he asked for or there could be severe consequences.

The tax collector in Luke 5 experienced something I think we all long for. In verse 27 Jesus walked by him and simply said, “Follow me.” The next verse says the man “got up, left everything, and followed him.” He left everything! He didn’t pause, he didn’t look back. He just got up and followed.

Do you think this traitor, deceiver, adult bully, was just maybe a little lonely? Do you think it’s possible this was the first time someone had looked at him, like really looked at him, and saw him, not all his misgivings? I think so. I think it’s possible that deep in his heart, all he wanted was to belong to something. But perhaps decision after decision just brought him farther down the wrong path. Do you think maybe, just maybe, he wanted something different but there wasn’t anyone to give him that chance? Everyone looked at him with utter disdain, pure hatred. Finally, someone looked at him and saw him as a man who just wanted to belong.

The proper qualifications

You see, here’s the thing, with Jesus there are no “proper qualifications.” There is no checklist to becoming a better human and then he will love you. He’s a come as you are, come as you have been, just come to me, Savior.

If you are His follower, you have His example to model.

Remember the young woman at the start of this blog entry? Eventually she made it back to her dorm floor where another young woman saw her. She welcomed the lonely girl into friendship. She knew the poor decisions the girl had made, but she didn’t care. She saw her as Jesus did, a kid lost in a new place, overwhelmed, and alone.

I was the lost and lonely young woman. Twenty years later I sent a note to the friend on my floor, thanking her for showing me the love of Christ even when I wasn’t walking with Him. I didn’t start to pursue Jesus right then and there, but her actions sure did open the door for me to see that there was something to this faith thing.

Friend, is there a young girl like me in your life? Or a “tax collector” that might be hard to love? Perhaps someone who seems so strident in views opposed to yours, but it’s really just a way to try to protect themselves? Can you see beyond the poor decisions, or off-color comments, or mean remarks?

We all long to be seen. Perhaps Jesus is tapping on your shoulder asking you to see with His eyes. To love with His heart. To be His hands and feet despite qualifications. Because we all know, with Jesus there are no qualifications to belong.

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Lindsey Zarob
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