(See part one here)
Jesus was more than willing to eat with sinners. The apostle Paul was the same way, although he drew the line against associating with “a so-called brother” who remained immoral and unrepentant (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
Jesus was also willing to tell sinners to repent. This call constituted His main challenge to humanity as a teacher.
Matthew remembered the gist of Jesus’ message this way: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:17). But let’s let Jesus speak for Himself:
- 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 5:31-32).
- But unless you repent, you too will all perish. (Luke 13:5).
- [There] will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7).
Jesus, who never sinned, was kind and loving to sinners. Yet, he hated sin with a passion. He was especially outraged with those who caused children to sin. He understood what sin did to people He loved. On several occasions, He recalled God’s judgment on Sodom as entirely just. He warned of even worse judgment for those who refuse to repent (see Matthew 11:20-24).
Charles H. Spurgeon, the 19th century “prince of preachers,” understood Jesus’ love for sinners. He preached:
Christ came to bring healing to those who are spiritually sick—you say that you are perfectly well, so you must go your own way and Christ will go in another direction—towards sinners.
A good physician would never base a prescription for a sick person on a desire to be liked or to make the patient feel better about himself. Good doctors don’t tell patients to simply follow their whims or take whatever medicine tastes good. Spiritually speaking, nothing tastes worse than repentance. And nothing prevented Jesus, the Great Physician, from His prescription for sick sinners to repent. Refusing this charge is like hiding from the good shepherd who longs to find us and carry us home.
Repentance means to change one’s mind and turn from sin. It transforms both our inner orientation and our outer lifestyle. It is incompatible with a conscious identification with our temptations or sins. Defining yourself by your sin or your inclinations to sin is the polar opposite of repenting.
Those who define themselves as homosexual need Jesus. In Him, they would see love for the sinner and hatred for the sin. We all see this simultaneous love and hatred in the cross. Jesus would eat with sinners but never put his carpentry skills to use to build an altar for idolatry or a sanctuary for sin. He would never call adultery “love,” or celebrate a same-sex or polyamorous marriage. The apostle John made it clear that “[Jesus] appeared in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5), not to join forces with sin. He spent time with tax-collectors but never participated in their theft. Instead, he insisted on repentance.
Should a homosexual musician or photographer be forced to provide her services to the Westboro Baptist Church where gay hatred ruins rampant? Of course not. Why not respect the same right of refusal for Christians who oppose same-sex marriage?
Christians who refuse involvement in same-sex “weddings,” either as ministers, musicians, photographers, bakers or otherwise, are standing tall with Jesus. However, cultural and political pressure is increasingly depriving Christians of their legal right to say “no” to something they deem sinful. Even the National Football League recently threatened to punish Arizona if their governor allowed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to pass. Nevertheless (I love that word), Christians honor God above legality, money and political correctness. No politician, CEO, professor, celebrity or journalist can force a real Christian to join in with sin.
They cannot stop us from loving sinners either.