I must admit I am writing this article in somewhat of a response to what seems to me to be an overwhelming pressure in the Christian world to accept or stay quiet about several non-Biblical world-views. The justification for this outright acceptance is often based on the actions of Jesus when he had “fellowship” with the outcasts and the sinners.
We live in a culture where we have redefined love simply as acceptance without regard to lifestyle or choices. To love someone means you must, without a word of disagreement, accept all of their choices and their lifestyle as good and acceptable. After all, that’s what Jesus did. Moments ago I read an article on a Christian website explaining why fear keeps us from understanding and accepting those with a worldview which drastically differs from what the Bible clearly teaches. The suggestion was if we would simply do as Jesus did and “eat a meal” with the thieves, tax collectors, and sinners of our society we would be able to understand and accept those with differing viewpoints. But is that really what Jesus did?
Let’s take the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19 as our example. I often hear this story referred to in this discussion and I believe a further examination of the content would reveal a drastically different viewpoint.
We know from the context of the culture and what the Bible tells us that Zacchaeus was an outcast amongst his people. He was a liar and a cheater in business and much of his dishonesty was to the detriment of his own people. As Jesus enters Jericho he notices Zacchaeus in a tree, clamoring for a look at this mysterious Rabbi. Upon noticing Zacchaeus, Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” The religious zealots looked on in disgust as Jesus went to spend time in the home of the tax collector.
Now, if we were to stop right there we might be compelled to believe the ministry of Jesus was to make the outcasts of society feel included. He wasn’t afraid of their sin and he loved them simply by inclusion. However, there is much more to the story. Take a look at what Zacchaeus says in Luke 19:8, “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Jesus replies, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Was Jesus afraid of Zacchaeus because he was a sinner? No. Did he go to the home of a man whose life was clearly in opposition to what God desired? Yes. But did Jesus go into Zacchaeus’ home to affirm the life Zacchaeus was living? Absolutely not! Jesus went to his home for the purpose of transformation. It is true that Jesus loved Zacchaeus in a powerful way and part of that love was displayed simply in His willingness to go into the tax collectors home. But the full expression of the love of Jesus for Zacchaeus was in the way Zacchaeus was powerfully transformed from a dishonest crook to a man who honored God with his life and business.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18 Paul tells us that we have been reconciled to God by Christ and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Our job is not to go into the world and make everyone feel included by affirming whatever lifestyle they are living regardless of whether or not it honors God. Our job is to go into hurting and broken lives and bring the gospel of Jesus for the purpose of TRANSFORMATION.
This doesn’t mean it is acceptable for us bash certain groups of people with a different worldview and justify our bashing Biblically. The requirement is still for us to get into the mess with the hurting and broken and to love people where they are. However, our encounters should not be aimed at inclusion, rather a goal to bring about healing, hope, and life through the message of Jesus Christ.
Now is the time for believers to rally around a Biblically mandated lifestyle and not simply lay down our convictions for the sake of inclusion. However, at the same time Paul tells us the time of favor is now. We of all people should be LOVINGLY bringing the message of the gospel to all areas of brokenness in our world.
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