Last night we finished few weeks of looking at what the Christian message is with a practical look at how Jesus himself reached out to different kinds of people, and what that means for us. Here are the notes:
Here are the scripture we read to start off: Luke 7:31–50, Luke 19:1-10; Luke 14:34-15:2; Mark 2:13–17; Matthew 11:19; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Corinthians 10:27; Ephesians 5:1-11; 1 Peter 4:1-
We know that in pursuing these relationships, Jesus could not have been sinning. So he wasn’t “partaking” of the “unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:1) or “running with them in the flood dissipation” (1 Peter 4:4)—he was not participating in the sin. But he was “keeping company” with these non-believers (1 Cor 5:10), eating with them (1 Cor 10:27), and thus he was called their “friend” (Mt 11:19, Luke 7:34). He ate meals with them (Mk 2:13-17, Lk 5:29-30), stayed at their houses (Lk 19:5), let them touch him and show affection to him publicly (Lk 7:38-39), asked them to follow him (Mk 2:14), and spent time teaching them (Luke 15:1). So he was not worried about being “defiled” by the people themselves. (This would have been the concern of the religious leaders who were criticizing him.) Instead, his holiness was contagious (this ideas was from Craig Blomberg). So we see that it is sin that defiles, not people. (Here the teaching on food from Mark 7 can be key—it’s what comes out of our hearts in the form of sin that defiles, not what we eat.) Sin can’t be transmitted through contact, hanging out, or friendship. It only spreads as an individual himself or herself gives in to temptation and commits sin.
- We must not participate in the life-style around us so characterized by the things Peter and Paul write about: greed, mistreatment of others, sinful partying, and unrestrained sexuality. In that sense, we need to be careful about what situations we allow ourselves to participate in. If we can’t be somewhere without basically doing what they’re doing, or if we’ll be tempted to do the same things, we should stay away from the situation.
- However, it’s important that we do not think that the sin of those around us can make us sinful by association. Sin can’t spread like a virus. So we have no reason to stay away from people in general, in fact, like Jesus and Paul, we have a mandate to befriend them and to be with them.
- Practically, what that means is that we must invite them into our lives and houses, and we must pursue meeting with them on both neutral ground (starbucks, etc.) and in their places. We could easily hang out in their house without attending one of their parties. But we don’t hang in the bar with them when everyone’s drinking up and partying. Do we attend a blatantly sinful bachelor party or go with a group to a place where sin is the main attraction? No. But do we hang at their house, do sports games together, join biking clubs, work out together, and a hundred other activities like that? Do we go to weddings and other social get-togethers, even parties, that don’t require us to do what Peter or Paul say to avoid? Absolutely.
- We must learn how to love people enough that we know when and how to tell them that what they’re doing is wrong. There is a time and a way where it is loving to help someone see that they’re dishonoring God and hurting themselves.
- If we’re going to do this, we must learn not to be put off by the symptoms of people’s sin, or even by speech and behavior which seems “course” or sinful to us. This is sometimes difficult but it requires that we live in the moment by the leading of the Spirit and a deep heart which is being changed by God’s love for us and everyone.
- In all of this, we don’t have to worry that our friendship with these people is “condoning their lifestyle.” Associating with people is our way of showing God’s love and we can only show them God’s love by being with people and among them. We need a relationship with someone to really show them God’s love. (See John 17:15-19, John 16:7-11)