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13 November 2007

Jesus vs. Paul?

I'm a big proponent of not alienating myself from those around me. Part of that is just within my nature -- for better or worse, I'm one of those people who has an innate need (okay, maybe it's technically a desire) to be liked by other people. But the primary thing that has driven me since I became serious about following Christ is the example that Jesus set; one that I am intent on following.

In Luke 5:31-32, Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." As I've said before, one of the ways that He did this was by getting to know people personally. He went to big tax-collector wing-dings, he hung out with people didn't care for God, and because of this was maligned by many people, most notably religious leaders.

A serious problem comes in, though, when we suggest that we're simply modeling the life of Christ by befriending those around us whose faith and values are in direct opposition to our own, when in fact we're honestly attempting to dip into a lifestyle that will hopefully give us some impunity and freedom to do what we know is wrong for us.

Paul wrote, "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.' Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." (1 Corinthians 15:33-34, NKJV)

I have heard it said, "Jesus stayed in the company of sinners, but Paul told us not to. I'm going to choose Jesus over Paul."

I submit that this is a statement without any foundation. Jesus had one thing in mind: showing people how to have a personal relationship with God. He was not disingenuously associating with people just to "win more souls." He honestly, deep down at the core, loved people, and that's what motivated him. This is not the case with the church at Corinth, to which Paul was writing. He said that the world around them was squeezing them into its mold (see Romans 12:2, J. B. Phillips). They were not modeling the life of Christ, but instead they were in the world and of the world. The Contemporary English Version renders the last part of 1 Corinthians 15:34 this way: "You should be embarrassed that some people still don't know about God."

Unfortunately, I've personally found that it's rather easy to feel a sense of piety when we justify our actions by pulling Jesus' lifestyle out of context.

I'm not stating or even suggesting that we're to cut off our relationships with those who don't agree with us, have the same philosophical mindset, or hold a Christian worldview. Instead, I'm saying that it's imperative for us to examine our motives, and as we go wherever we're going to go, we're to love, to help, to see that justice is done, and make disciples along the way.


Tony M said...

I think it's that whole, "You're the only gospel some people ever read" thing - oftentimes, you'd never get "those people" (tax collectors et al. back in the day; who would they be now?) anywhere near a church, and they most likely wouldn't be swayed much by the "street corner preacher" either. But Jesus (and some of His current followers) had the knack of getting in there, getting to know them, meeting them where they are, and then bringing them God's love and, eventually, God's message at a point where they are open and ready to hear it.

We, the "modern followers of Jesus," can do the same thing - model the lifestyle of Christ. Actually, we should be doing that wherever we are. And it's that lifestyle that will often draw the "unreachable" to God's love. That being said, there are some who can do this more readily than others, and there are areas where some are more able to do this than others. For some, the association could very well lead to a sinful life, the denial of Christ that Peter exhibited when following along after they arrested Jesus but trying to blend into the masses. For others, the settings aren't such a draw and their level of maturity and faith, combined with that ability to withstand the seduction of secularity, allows them a much broader range of interaction.

Some people are lured by some temptations, some by others. The fact that some have the ability to "be like Jesus" in the midst of the "sinful crowd" (those in need but not yet partakers of God's grace) doesn't make them "better Christians" than those who can't (admittedly, some have the ability to do this but don't due to other reasons - to those, it probably is shameful not to use the abilities God's provided to help win others to Christ). Some are still growing, some simply have weaknesses in certain areas where they have strengths in others.

Going back to your "body of Christ" thoughts (you did post something like that in the past, right?), we can't all be the same part - that would make a weird looking body (e.g., a man with 22 feet and no fingers on his hands; did anyone hear about this girl with 8 limbs?). We each have our part to play, and should do our best to play that part well. (And I'm not saying that we need to "play Christian" - I think you know what I mean in the last sentence! :)

Good post, today!

christy said...

I think that it's easier to do than what we make it out to be. Pastor Lee does it every day of his life. No he's not going to bars or street corners at night (not that I know of), but everywhere he goes he says that he makes sure he talks to somebody about church, or their personal walk w/ Christ. He mentions the grocery store - druggies, tax collectors, everybody goes to the grocery store, we just may not realize what their lifestyle is when or if we talk to them. So, I think that we can do just as Jesus did w/o putting ourselves into tempting situations. I think this is what you are talking about, but if not, be sure to let me know. :)

Preston N said...

Dean & Tony

I agree with modeling our lives after Christ as being vitally important, but remember this in of itself is not enough. I would recommend we keep something in context here and that is although Jesus ate and hung out with Sinners - he delivered unto them the one thing that would save them - and that is the Word of God. We see in Acts that the most productive way to lead people to salvation is through our lives and the Word of God:

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? (38) And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Romans 10:17 So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Without sharing the Word of God we are only giving sinners half the picture - without sharing the Word of God and only living holy before them is just not enough. Jesus came to deliver the Truth - in Word, Thought and Deed. This too is our model!

Dean Lusk said...

Preston said, "Without sharing the Word of God we are only giving sinners half the picture - without sharing the Word of God and only living holy before them is just not enough," and I say, "Right on!" (Or I would say that if this were 1979...)

Exactly right. I have intended to get into that a little more in upcoming posts.

I state here that the way in which we interact with others is a key foundation upon which we have to build our personal relationships.

However, there are plenty of appropriate times for us to present the Word of God bluntly (for lack of a better word). The Scriptures you use from Acts are within public speaking settings, and the one from Romans refers to preaching, as well. I speak in this post to personal relationships with those around us and the way in which we relate to people with our actions.

I apologize if I was misunderstood. I don't intend to imply that we can skip over telling people about Christ. As you pointed out in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Tony M said...

I, too, did not intend to indicate that "living the Gospel" was all that is required. That's just one way (tool, as Tom Parker said it in a comment on another post recently) that we can use to get to the point where we can bring the (spoken) message in a manner that they will listen. Of course, we often see in Scripture that Jesus didn't spend years "getting to know someone" and then whopping them with the truth; like the woman at the well, he was fairly straightforward with her.

In a manner of speaking, the old "you can attract more flies with honey" saying. But the truth must be shared.

Like Christy said, it's probably easier than we make it out to be. Why are we (well, why am I?) so inhibited? Don't know. Then again, if you don't know me, I probably don't say much to you anyway (I find it much easier to "hide" behind these online posts, and am much more verbose this way). What does all that mean? I don't know - that I still have some work to do as far as my own personality and witnessing go.

But, Preston, I agree - we can't just "live the Gospel" and leave the words unspoken.

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