One of the scariest things I hear from Christians these days is: “Well, that’s what Jesus did.” I’ve heard that statement used to explain a myriad of different activities, but those who say it often overlook one very important detail: they aren’t Jesus.
The Bible commands us to do many things in regards to Christ. We are told to act as Christ did (1 John 2:6). We are told to love as He loved (John 15:12). We are told to sacrifice for others as He died for us (Ephesians 5:2). We are told to live in Christ (Galatians 2:20). But I have not found any Scriptures that tell us to do everything that Christ did. In fact, I see some of the opposite in spelled out for us in the Bible.
Here’s a practical example. I often hear people say that Jesus entered in to dens of sinners and dined with them, partied with them even. I’ve heard that He would go into places that the religious elite of the day would never step foot. So, since Jesus did it, that means that we are to go into the bars, go into the strip clubs, go into the adult bookstores and casinos and every other place that exists solely for the propagation of sin. Since that’s what Jesus did, then we should do the same thing. Right?
First of all, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Jesus didn’t go into brothels and bars. He dined at the homes of people. I’ll even take one step further. When Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, he went to his home, where Matthew threw a banquet in His honor. I find it hard to believe that this banquet was full of lascivious behavior as it was to bring honor to Christ. Luke says that many of Matthew’s tax collector friends were there, but I’m they were on their best behavior. I can’t imagine Jesus sitting through an entire banquet thrown just for Him where there was nothing but sin going on. I believe Jesus took that opportunity to preach to those who needed to hear the Good News of the Gospel, not partake in the sin of others in order to establish report.
Luke 15:1 says that tax collectors and sinners were often drawn to hear Him speak. Why? Because Jesus would crack open a cold one with them and shoot the breeze? No! But because they were hungry for what He was teaching. Jesus lived His life in such a radically different way that people came from all walks of life to find out what was different about Him. People weren’t attracted to Jesus because He fit in.
But, just for argument’s sake, let’s say that I’m wrong. Let’s say that Jesus did frequent bars and other seedy places. Does that mean that we can do it too? Not a chance! There is not one verse in the Bible (and of this I am certain) that tells you to walk into temptation. In fact, the exact opposite is taught.
“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT)
Youthful lusts are not always sexual desires, but any desires of the flesh. When you become saved, you do not suddenly lose your urge for sinful things. Just ask any of the prominent pastors who have fallen from grace (figuratively speaking) in a very public way, getting involved with drugs, promiscuity, and any other sin you can think of. Sin is an equal opportunity corrupter and will seek out those who are most vulnerable. And those who think themselves impervious to the wiles of the devil, are, in truth, the most susceptible to fall when tempted.
Jesus was, is, perfect. We are not, so we need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and minds (Psalm 101:3) against the powers of the devil.
So does that mean that we shouldn’t try to reach those people for the Lord? Of course not! Every needs the saving power of Jesus Christ. But we should really be more discriminating about how and when we deliver the Word. For example: would it really be fruitful to walk into a bar and tell those who are drunk and compromised about Jesus? There’s no way that they would be able to fully understand because their mind is compromised. In fact, the Bible says that drinking can actually lead people to forget about God, not run towards Him (Proverbs 31:5-6).
Think back to all of the encounters that Christ had with unbelievers. Did he ever confront a prostitute in the midst of her deplorable acts? No. He found them in everyday life. They were just people living in sin, not committing it at that exact moment. Although he intervened when the men were about to stone the prostitute, and he always called out the pharisees when they would judge others, I still haven’t found the verse that says that Jesus approached the drunk man and preached the Word to him, at which time the drunkard immediately sobered up and turned his life around. We need to be discerning about when we witness for Christ, giving people the best chance possible to hear, and understand, the Word.
Do I think it’s a sin to go into a bar? No, I don’t. But I do think that it’s incredibly unwise to put yourself in a position where you could potentially be compromised. Remember, Christ never once tried to blend in. In fact, it was his radically differentiation that set him apart from those around him, which ended up drawing people (sinners and tax collectors) to him to find out how they could have what he was offering. Perhaps that’s the lesson we should take away. We need to live our lives in a way that makes those around us want to have what we have.
“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT)