Imagine having two best friends—one who was a boogaloo boy and one who was a Marxist socialist. That’s more or less how Jesus put together his closest group of friends. Jesus accepted all kinds of people and turned them into a unified group that crossed nearly every line. He had blue-collar fishermen and white-color sophisticates. He had a radical political zealot named Simon and a tax collector named Matthew. They couldn’t have been farther apart in ideologies and political allegiances.
Zealots violently opposed their Roman imperial overlords. They spent their time and resources plotting to overthrow the current political system. The Jewish tax collectors, on the other hand, sided with the empire. They exploited their own people and got rich in the name of Rome.
But Jesus didn’t care what their past looked like. Whatever Simon’s actions to overthrow the government, didn’t matter. And whatever Matthew had done to side with the government, finding his own selfish way to survive, Jesus didn’t ask for an explanation or justification.
Jesus formed his inner circle of friends with the express intent not only welcoming everyone, but also teaching them how to be unified. Education, reputation, social standing, history—none of that mattered to Jesus. He broke every social rule and then he invited his friends to break those rules too.
When was the last time you heard the red and blue sides of the political aisle screaming at each other, pointing fingers and making accusations. Probably hours, if not minutes, ago. Think of the last campaign ad you saw when someone was accusing their opponent of being bad for the economy or adamantly claiming that society was crumbling. Now picture those two people sitting down at the same table and supporting the same cause. Jesus had more than a couple of friends like that.
Two of the people that were Jesus’s closest followers fell on opposite ends of their day’s political spectrum. Jesus never really said much about politics, but he had a lot to say about how they should live in unity and show love toward each other.
There are stories to be told about Jesus reaching out to people. Jesus sat with those whose reputation had alienated and isolated them. Those whose open secrets made them social outcasts and the subjects of rumors. He met with the political elites and spoke with them about their lives and business. There are stories upon stories about how Jesus crossed social and political lines.
Jesus brought people together. And he expected that people acted like him. Matthew and Simon were expected to get along no matter their past or their view. Jesus accepted the far right, the far left, and every space in between. He didn’t care what a person’s politics were, he included everyone.
In a world where Christians seem to spend more time building walls and alienating anyone and everyone who doesn’t think, act, or live like them, Jesus did it differently. So despite the immense failure of his people to live in welcoming unity, you can always come to Jesus.