Jesus unloaded much rebuke upon the Pharisees during His public ministry. But perhaps we Christians are more like that bunch than we want to admit. The Pharisees felt as though they were better than everyone else—including Jesus. They would not be found hanging out with so-called sinners.
So when they saw Jesus eating with publicans and sinners, their holier-than-thou attitude raised its ugly head. “How is it that he eats and drinks with publicans and sinners?” they asked His disciples (Mark 2:16). They talked as if sinners and publicans were contagious.
OK, so let’s talk about ourselves. What is the culture in the local church that you belong to? Do church leaders overemphasize separation from the world? Do they make almost no mention of reaching the lost for Christ? Or—are you afraid to hang out with an unbeliever to seek his salvation, for fear of what fellow church members might say?
This is how Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ question: “They that are whole have no need of physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (verse 17). Jesus hung around sinners because He cared about their soul. His goal was to reach them for the Kingdom. He knew He could not accomplish that objective with a Pharisaical attitude.
When we became a Christian, we became new members in the family of God. But becoming a Christian does not require us to dump all of our old friends and acquaintances. Why should we ditch all the investments we have made into our relationships with them? Already knowing them, we may be in the best position to eventually reach some of them for Christ.
I love church fellowship. I love gospel singing and passionate, biblical preaching. Perhaps, God does too. But reaching the lost is what heaven is all about. God sent His Son to die for the lost. The Son gave His life to save the lost. In turn, He has given us the Great Commission to proclaim the gospel to the lost. To be men and women after God’s own heart, we too must desire to reach the lost. This we can’t do if we shun being around them.
I hereby affirm that God has called us to a life of holiness. But we must be careful not to embrace the spirit of the Pharisees in the process. Holiness is not legalism. Holiness does not make us better than unbelievers. It does not cause God to love us any more than He loves the worst of sinners. Rather, true holiness renders us meet for the Master’s work. And sometimes, that requires us to dine with sinners.
Copyright © 2015 by Frank King. All rights reserved.