If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it six hundred and sixty-six times: “Don’t you know Jesus hung out with sinners?”
Yes, as a matter of fact, I actually did know that.
However, those of us who oppose any number of formerly immoral, but now celebrated, cultural trends are regularly chastised for our supposed ignorance of the Savior’s party guests. When we refuse to affirm a particular lifestyle choice, almost without fail we are treated like biblical illiterates – because, of course, those who treat the Bible like toilet paper have a greater grasp of the text.
Me: I love you, but I don’t think Jesus would approve of what you are doing.
Somebody: You don’t love me, you bigot! You’re nothing but a ____phobic piece of $#!*! If you loved me, you’d accept me for who I am, not judge me.
Me: I’m not judging you, all I’m saying is…
Somebody: All you are saying is that you are a hater…a bigot…a racist…and all of your kind should be rounded up and shot! If you loved me like you say you do, you’d be more like Jesus and quit hating me.
Me: I don’t hate you! I just can’t affirm your activities and choices.
Somebody: See, you’re nothing but a m____-f____, self-righteous, hypocrite! If you read your Bible like you say you do, then you would have read where Jesus loved sinners and hung out with them. He didn’t go around hating people and trying to get them to change. You need to quit judging and go read your bronze-age book of myths again, then maybe you’ll actually learn something!
OK. You got me. I guess I should go dust off the cover of that old Book and re-read those long-forgotten and overlooked passages that prove Jesus would have affirmed and promoted every alternative lifestyle…because, you know, He was only about loving people, not wanting them to change. Right?
The “Hanging Out” Passages
Believe it or not, Jesus did eat with sinners! It’s a fact! But what is also a fact is that Jesus didn’t simply go eat with the prostitutes, the homosexuals, the drug addicts, the tax cheats, and the drunkards in order to tick off the religious elite. His intention for dining with these people was to reveal a better Way (Luke 19:10; John 14:6).
All three of the synoptic gospels tell of a particular event, one where Jesus went to eat at the house of Matthew (see Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:15-17; and Luke 5:29-32). When the scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus with the “unclean” crowd, they were indignant! One can almost hear the seething, sneering comments hiss from their lips as they murmured, “How is it that he eats with these publicans and sinners?”
When Jesus heard what they said, he did not respond in the way the modern activists portray Him. Jesus, the embodiment of love and compassion, did not in any way accept and affirm the sinners’ lifestyles, but referred to them as “sick” and in need of a spiritual “physician.” Imagine referring to sinners as “sick” these days! However, that is the precise reason Jesus came to “hang out” with sinners: to heal them from their spiritual diseases.
Jesus said unto the scribes and Pharisees, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
He didn’t want to leave them where they were; He actually wanted them to repent! He didn’t hang out as a sign of affirmation, but so that they could be forgiven and “sin no more” (John 8:11).
So, you see, Jesus did care about and hang out with sinners, as do most of us. But just like Jesus, because we love them, we can’t automatically affirm and support every cause that parades naked down Main Street. Like Jesus, we don’t want them to stay “sick,” we want them to be “healed.”
“This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” – 1 Timothy 1:15
Because I have had the life-changing “balm of Gilead” applied to my own sin-sick soul, why wouldn’t I want to point others to the Great Physician? Leaving people to die in their sins, never telling them there is a cure for the sickness they may not even realize they have, may be a form of affirmation, but it sure as heck ain’t love.