Do you love a good controversy? Well, Jesus was the instigator of several controversies during his 3 years of ministry on the earth including the strong disagreement over the people with whom he chose to eat. The Religiously Serious leaders of the day (the people who you may have expected to be closer to Jesus because they were serious about the Bible) grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” One commentator calls this group of religious insiders as “The Disgustingly Healthy” while I would say they were as fit as an Anorexic. These Biblically Serious leaders try to get the disciples to revolt against Jesus with challenges like, “what kind of master do you have that leads you into parties like this? He should be leading you into a holy life.
(of course he was) He is leading you astray into relationships with the wicked.”
Jesus was charged with being a friend of sinners, a glutton and even a drunkard on occasion. To those who espoused teetotalism, Jesus wasn’t outwardly spiritual enough and He was too social to be holy. In the three year ministry of Christ the four gospels record 52 days. In those 52 days of the ministry of Christ he was accused 6 times of being a friend of sinners. That’s almost once per week. The Question for you and for me is…. How often does that happen to you? How often has your compassion for lost people been accused by the Biblically Serious as compromise?
The Pharisees looked at spiritual maturity as a withdrawal from sinful community but Jesus saw maturity as immersion into and redemption of a sinful community. Christ opposes the Pharisees and those like them because they never saw themselves as sick in the first place. When you hang out with sinners, this freedom that Jesus gives will be contested by some religious people.
If a Christian is hanging out with the wrong people for the right reasons, his actions should be celebrated by the church, not condemned. Of course, this is not an endorsement for teens and college students to engage in “missionary dating” because romantic feelings always confuse our motives. Christians should always make sure that in any relationship with those who don’t yet know Christ, that we are the ones who are setting the spiritual temperature of the relationship. We want to be thermostats not thermometers, setting the temperature instead of merely responding to it. But a life that welcomes sinners will be criticized by the self-righteous establishment.