Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"But Jesus always hung out with sinners!"

If you've ever called anyone out on the fact that they are hanging around people they shouldn't be hanging out with, those who are "super spiritual" will shoot back with the argument that Jesus always hung out with sinners. In fact, Jesus was known to hang out with the tax collectors, who were considered to be some of the most dishonest and deceptive people of his day. He did - you can see it in Matthew 9:11;11:19, Luke 5:30; 7:24, and 15:12, and Mark 2:16. So they take the "Jesus did it, so I can too" approach. But let's take a minute to look at Christ's motive for investing His time in sinful people.

The Pharisees asked Jesus why he ate with godless sinners. Jesus responded in Luke 5:31-32, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance." Basically, he said, "Duh! Because I want to gospel with them so they will ask for forgiveness of their sins and be saved!" Now, keep in mind that Jesus hated sin and worldly lifestyles, but he put up with man's sinfulness in hopes that they would turn from their evil ways. So ask yourself what your motivation is for hanging out with sinful people. Do you enjoy their worldly lifestyle and their company? Or is your sole purpose in being their friend to bring them to knowledge of salvation through Jesus?

Ready for the protest you'll get next? "Well, what do you expect me to do - hide in a corner and never talk to anyone who is not a Christian?!" Lucky for us, Paul answered this very question in I Corinthians 5:9-13: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so–called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?"

Many will interpret this passage to mean that we can have close relationships with ungodly people...but that's not what Paul is saying at all! He's being realistic. We live in the world, and we can't take ourselves out if it...but we are to take those who are worldly out of the church. So yes...you will have contact with unbelievers. You will talk to them, you will work with them, you will go to school with them...but we are called to be set apart.

In II Corinthians 6:14-17, Paul writes again, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you.”

So the bottom line is that we are going to come in contact with unbelievers, but we have to decide how we are going to handle that problem before we are put in a bad situation. Read I Corinthians 15:33-34. Paul gives us three instructions in how to react when associating with an unbeliever. He tells us:

1) Do not be deceived. Do not let anything lure you away from the truth that can only be found in God's Word.

2) Become sober-minded. Don't lie to yourself that there is no danger in spending great amounts of time with unbelievers. Force yourself to think clearly.

3) Stop sinning. Sounds easy enough, right? WRONG! But it definately gives us something to work towards.

So ask yourself a few questions. Do you keep bad company? Do you have close relationships with people who do not acknowledge your God? Read the Word of God, and do what it says. Do not be deceived, become sober-minded, and stop sinning.

1 comment:

sarah k. said...

I was looking up versus on this very question today on google and your blog came up. Thanks so much for this post, it's really encouraging.

I do strongly believe that Ephesians 5:9-13 doesn't mean we should be so apart from the world that we can no longer witness to nonbelievers -- I think we must be friends with unbelievers in order to lead them to Christ and witness to them through our actions and not necessarily our words. Not necessarily the emotionally close kind of friends that you can have with other believers -- but definitely enough where you invest in their lives and care about them and their well-being, and they care enough about you to wonder where your hope comes from. Otherwise, how would they see how Jesus makes your life different, if they don't know who you are?

I think our relationships with Christians must be very different than our relationships with nonbelievers. I am unfortunately in a tough position right now because I recently rededicated my life to Christ, and I therefore have many close friends who are nonbelievers. I can feel a change in the dynamic of our relationship though since the change in my life, so I know that there are huge differences between my relationships with my nonbeliever friends and the closer relationships I have with other Christians.

A lot of my nonbeliever friends have very liberal views on issues like homosexuality, as can be expected. I'm struggling currently with how to defend my position that homosexuality is wrong with exegetical study of the Scriptures. I recently posted a blog entry about homosexuality -- one of my friends posted a note on Facebook that talks about how conservative Christians have twisted the Bible to make it seem like homosexuality is wrong even though it's not. I of course do NOT believe that homosexuality is okay -- but I do not know enough about exegesis and the original Hebrew etcetera to make a good argument against them. I've bought a few books recently to help me, and hopefully they will arm me with the knowledge I need to defend my conservative stance on the issue.

I would love to know your opinion -- should I stay completely away from these friends? Should I try to defend my stance that homosexuality is wrong with exegetical interpretation and historical analysis once I have read the books necessary to legitimize my argument?

I don't think I should just say "No, I can't be your friend because you're not a Christian, stay away" because I don't think that this would lead anyone to Christ -- this seems more like an Amish sort of community, where shunning members for sin is supposed to shame them and make them feel so alone that they come running back to the community. After all, we want the prodigal son to return of his own free will and smile and dance at his welcoming -- we do not want to shame him into returning, thus risking that he is only a believer because he's afraid of being alone -- his faith is never his own, then. And why would anyone want to be a part of a faith that condemns, hates, and shuns people? Christianity is all about God's love for us even though we are sinners, and the grace He gives us once we've accepted Jesus into our lives.

I hope this wasn't too much rambling! LOL. And I hope it wasn't too incoherent!

I loved this entry of yours - I'm going to start following your blog. God bless!

Esther 4:14b

"And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"