Jesus was and is a friend of sinners. But it’s often difficult for us to grasp if and how we ought to follow in his footsteps.
A few months ago, Christians were debating (on the Internet, where else?) to what degree Jesus is a friend of sinners, and to what degree we should be. As often happens, the debate became rancorous.
On the one hand, some wanted to protect the integrity of Jesus and the gospel. So they qualified the notion that Jesus was a friend of sinners. I read things like, “As precious as this truth is—that Jesus is a friend of sinners—it, like every other precious truth in the Bible, needs to be safeguarded against doctrinal and ethical error.”
When we start using words like “safeguarding” in conversations about grace, well, it suggests a problem. A different writer with the same point of view showed what he thought safeguarding looks like. The blogger tried to discern under what circumstances Jesus—and today, Christians—could go into a strip club to fellowship with sinners. The blogger tacked on qualification after qualification until we arrived at this: Since Jesus had dinner/partied/hung out with sinners in the places where they congregated, “we should do so too when: (1) they are not engaging in sin, (2) we do so for the purpose of calling them to repentance, (3) when our presence does not condone sin or the mocking of God, and/or (4) when the sinners are not our fellow believers.”
The logic is persuasive in one way, but by the time we’re done, we have something that does not feel or sound like the gospel at all. It sounds like a new law. The gospel—the simple announcement of the good news of God’s core attitude ...
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