So, a couple of posts ago I mentioned the fact that, from a cultural standpoint, Christians can’t really stand up and present the Jesus of the Bible without the potential of being ostracized and blasted for being intolerant or bigots or whatever. We can talk about Jesus as a loving, kind, “friend of sinners”, but not as the one who challenged people to “repent for the kingdom of God is near”.
Last night, I watched a popular television show that illustrated this point perfectly. During the show (I’ll let you guess which one) a character’s father was trying to approach her about a given topic by using Scripture to demonstrate the nature of sin, and she proceeded to fire back with the words of Jesus in order to defend herself. In the end, the father was eating crow and the daughter felt vindicated.
There are a couple of points to be made. First, the words of Jesus quoted in Scripture do not in any way contradict or diminish the other words of Scripture. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV (emphasis mine). In Matthew 5 (portions of which were used in the aforementioned television show) Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20, ESV. So, to quote Jesus incorrectly is to misunderstand the entirety of the Bible. Jesus did preach a gospel of grace and forgiveness, but he also preached in equal measure a gospel of justice and repentance.
Second, the quickest and most effective way to justify sin to yourself (by that I mean make yourself feel better about doing what is in itself wrong) is by looking to Scripture to back yourself up. Satan, in fact, will try to use the Bible to tempt us. In Matthew 4, Satan quotes Psalm 91 to try to get Jesus to obey him. I think it’s important that we understand that merely quoting the Bible doesn’t put you in the right, and one passage taken out of context can be used more to trip you up than to help.
Last thing, Jesus was a friend of sinners, but he was never a friend of their sin. A lot of times people who don’t want to be held accountable for their actions will quote Jesus’ words to the accusers of the prostitute in John 8, where he says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” They’ll make the argument that Jesus didn’t want us to judge sin so neither should we. But they forget what Jesus says to the woman at the very end of the passage, “Go and from now on sin no more.” Or some translations say “Leave your life of sin.” Jesus was not a friend of sin, and as I read recently, “We need Jesus because he called sin sin and chased it to the cross to pay for it and take the damning curse from those who trust in him.“