Jesus, a prostitute and an IRS agent walk into a bar…

Where do you think Jesus would be on a Saturday night? I remember hearing, on a many weekend night, when we were at church for some event or service how great it was we decided to be at church instead of “out at the club”. Recently, those comments sparked my thinking — would Jesus go to church on a Saturday night? My religious side says, “Jesus would be at church 24/7 having his own worship service.” Better is one day in his courts than a 1,000 elsewhere, right? The more I considered it… I’m not so sure.

For John came neither eating nor drinking and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proven right by her actions. Matthew 11:18-19

Verses like these often give ‘holy’ people pause. They rush to Jesus’ defense as if he needed them: “They just called Jesus a drunkard.”; “The wine they had back then was watered down, nothing like our wine.”… and on and on. Holiness is greatly misunderstood. It does not mean a complete disassociation with sin or sinners. If that is the standard, then Jesus failed horribly because not only did he associate with tax collectors, prostitutes and Samaritans, he was called their friend.

Holiness is being so set apart from the pack, and so true to oneself that it has a redeeming force. Jesus was so holy, for him to only hang out with ‘holy rollers’ would have simply been selfish and unprofitable. We shame Jesus and are not true to his personality and will if we hoard him up inside church walls for ourselves, saying “You have to come here to meet Jesus. We will not meet you out there. And we certainly will not associate with you in those places.”

…”Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-31

One more thought needs tearing down. “Well, maybe you’re right. But that was Jesus, we’re different.” No. Wrong again. Christians are “little Christs” — we’re meant, designed and empowered to be just like Jesus in ever way… including holiness. We’re already set apart by him, we just have to be true to who he made us to be.

If Jesus were no friend of sinners then there is no hope for me. Jesus is loved by billions because he is a friend to society’s rejects, the marginalized and hated. As a “little Christ”, I too want to be called a friend of sinners. I want them to like being around me, to seek out my presence, because they know when I’m around Jesus is too. And if they are attracted to me because of Jesus… mission accomplished. Christ help us to be a friend of sinners.

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