There is a path of life laid out for us to tread upon, but given time some Christians unfortunately manage to fall into one of two ditches. On the one side you have Christians professing Christ, but they are so worldly you can hardly distinguish them from the rest of the world. But on the other side you have Christians who act and speak more spiritual than Jesus! This is what I principally want to address.
Presenting a face of Christianity that is more “spiritual” than Jesus is one of the larger problems in the church today. We have forgotten how to connect with the common sinner! As Bill Johnson once said, “It’s not good when Christians try to do business only with other Christians. We are salt and light. We shine best in dark places!”
Today Christians have developed their own subculture of Christian music, Christian movies, Christian fashion, Christian lingo– but above all– hyped-up Christian “spirituality” that I find quite repugnant the more I see it. The latter is rooted in self-righteousness and masks itself as spirituality. But it is pseudo-spirituality. It is the same “spirituality” the Pharisees exhibited who judged Jesus for drinking and dining with tax collectors and harlots. In the Bible we read about how the lower elements of society were attracted to Jesus. He attended their parties, ate meals with them, laughed with them, drank their wine (even made their wine!) and shared life with them. What ever happened to that Jesus?
We make Jesus so unattainable, untouchable, unapproachable and irrelevant to sinners today. In Mt. 11:19 and Luke 7:34 it says the “religious” people in Jesus day called Jesus a “a glutton and a drunkard and a friend of tax collectors and sinners” because he was often found eating, drinking and spending time with broken people whose sin was an obvious, observable stain on the outside (as opposed to the hidden and concealed stain of sin like that of the Pharisees who Jesus described as pristine, whitewashed tombs on the outside with the smell of rotting flesh and bones in the inside).
I particularly love the fact that they called Jesus a “drunkard.” Of course we know that Jesus never got drunk, but at minimum this passage does tell us that Jesus’s spirituality wasn’t above drinking the same wine that other people were getting drunk on–i.e. Jesus drank alcohol with sinners. So why is it that many Christians today try to qualify, validate and endorse their faith by saying, “I’m a Christian because I’ve never let alcohol touch my lips!” Why is this the litmus test of faith so many look to to substantiate their own spirituality and then seek to impose on others? If Jesus chose to reject the Nazarite Vow for himself and was able to kick back with tax collectors and sinners and meet them on their own terms over a cup of wine, why can’t we?
This is just one example on how the church has lost touch with the Jesus who didn’t wait for people to become ex-prostitutes and ex-drunkards before he chose to befriend them. We often like to maintain a comfortable distance between us and the “sick who need a doctor” that Jesus declared he came for (Lk 5:32). You know– a Christian “caste” system that allows a healthy degree of separation between “us” and “them” and serves as a self-righteous reminder to ourselves and others that at the end of the day we are– just better people. But the fact is we are all sick and we are all blind (Jn. 9:39). For “God doesn’t show favoritism… [but] everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins (Lk 10:34-43).”
But no matter–the illusion that we are better and superior must be maintained. We wear our most expensive, prettiest, Sunday-morning dress-up clothes to worship God in; we avoid spending time with worldly sinners as if they have leprosy; we content ourselves to sit in judgment on all the easy targets of our day– gays, the divorced, teenage mothers, the drug addicted. You know– the “prostitutes, tax collectors and drunkards” of our modern culture.
The last thing we would feel comfortable doing is sitting down and sharing a meal with any of those pagan sinners like Jesus did. We wouldn’t know how to act, what to say, or how to say it. We would end up not only making ourselves horribly uncomfortable but also those around us. Why? Because we have entered a world outside our little, safe, self-enclosed Christian bubble where it is easier to sit in judgement over sinners than to befriend them as Christ did. We have spent so much time with our “own kind” speaking “Christianeze” language and ending every sentence with, “all praise to God, glory to God” that we don’t know how to just sit still, turn-off our hyper-evangelistic agenda, and actually listen to people and return to them some of the dignity this world has taken from them.
Have you every asked yourself, “WHY did prostitutes and social rejects like tax-collectors WANT to spend time with Jesus?” After all–Jesus is the supreme goody-two-shoes of the universe! He is the squeaky clean, supreme, moral arbiter of all men. He is the absolute and total embodiment of the “holier than thou” catch phrase! Of all people, you would think they would feel so much loathsome guilt and condemnation just being in His “holier than thou” presence it would be like repellent to a mosquito.
So why did Jesus attract them like honey?
Why did a harlot seek him out in his last hours and why was she willing to bear the accusatory stares of the pious as she washed his feet with her hair?
Will look at this more in Part 2.