May 2

Life With God Comes First: Gift of God

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8)

Most of us are familiar with Jesus giving Simon the name Peter, as “the rock on which I’ll build my church.” Indeed, the Bible is full of people getting new names as they enter into their true life—their life with God. My favorite instance of this is rarely mentioned, and admittedly guesswork on my part. Matthew is the first of the four gospels, and its author was a tax collector for the Romans. That means he was considered a traitor by his own people—despised. Until Jesus walked up to him one day and said, “Follow me.” And he did. It’s just as simple and as complicated as that.

Have you ever noticed that both Mark and Luke refer to him by his birth name: Levi? But he refers to himself as Matthew—which means gift of God. We don’t know why Matthew refers to himself that way, but I like to believe that, like he did with Peter, Jesus gave Matthew that name, and he embraced it, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver. He probably didn’t like himself very much. He probably carried great shame. His own people hated him but suddenly this Rabbi, who says he’s God’s son, tells Levi he’s a gift. And he believes it. Do you?

Prayer: God, thank you for seeing me as a gift. My I continue to get my identity from you, and not from other people’s opinions of me -or from my actions.