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June 23, 2003

Where Would Jesus Go?

'If Jesus was to show up in your town or suburb today to spend a week - where would he go, who would he hang out with and what would he do?' I asked a group of Christian youth and young adults during a workshop to work on the above question.

The list they generated was a fascinating one. It included

- in the homes of single moms
- at the local high school with the smokers
- at the horse racing track
- he�d do a shift on the kids help line
- in the pubs and clubs
- on the streets helping the drug addicts and homeless
- at the hospital healing people
- at the strip club/brothel
- talking to the dorks at school
- in the public housing estate with the refugees and unemployed
- he�d stand up against the casino
- at the gay bar
- he�d confront the prime minister about the way we treat refugees and indigenous people.
- he�d hang around with �ordinary� people

There were a lot more responses but you get the picture.

Paul�s words �You are the Body of Christ� ring in my ears as I look at this list.

There is a lot that can be said about that verse � it speaks of many things. It is one that often gets pulled out to talk about unity between Christians (and so it should). But I wonder if that�s only half the picture.

Bodies give us a physical presence. Without a body we�d be limited in our capacity to do anything. We are the body of Jesus � we are his physical presence in the world today.

We are pretty good at identifying where Jesus would turn up in our culture � the gospels give us a pretty good idea of that � but when it comes to his physical presence in the world today I think the responsibility rests largely upon our shoulders.

If the above list is where Jesus would go � and the Church is his body � why is it not in these places in force? Is the body of Christ suffering from paralysis?

The gospels show us that Jesus also spent time with his community and time in prayer with the Father � we as his body need to do likewise � but so much of the gospel is about him connecting with those outside his immediate circle of followers.

I'm going to the pub again....no....its too early to be open....I'm going for a coffee

Posted by Darren at June 23, 2003 10:09 AM | TrackBack
Comments

There's a comment in the New Testament to this effect: As we do to the least of our fellow human beings, we do to Jesus. When we refuse to help the less fortunate (as in "the ill, the poor, the elderly, children etc.") we are rejecting the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Christianity. you say "where would Jesus go-" I say the reality is that Jesus is in the shelters, homeless on the street, turned away from the food pantry, turned down for a job after walking five miles to apply, beaten and tortured by his parents, undereducated, refused lifegiving care and medication, and abused at the end of his mortal life.

Posted by: jackiebeech at June 23, 2003 10:28 AM

Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and all manner of immoral and looked-down-upon people. But...did He go to the brothels and the tax offices? Or did these people *come* to Jesus?

I've always been of the impression that the latter was the case. I believe that Christians are supposed to minister to prostitutes and the like...but does that ministry include going down into the gutter, or does it include being so set apart from the world that the prostitutes see us, want what we have, and come to us to ask us how they too can have it?

As for hanging out at the high school with the smokers, the only real issue at hand with that one is whether or not the smokers are underage. Smoking is not unbiblical in and of itself.

Hanging out with the outcasts and ministering to single moms are, of course, Christian activities that we ought to engage in and often neglect to engage in. But those things are entirely different from going to the local brothel or hanging out at the gay bar.

The Biblicality (is that a word) of going *to* the brothels and the like aside, what about the practicality? Assuming a Christian *is* supposed to minister at the local brothel, how does he go about it? After all, if I ran down to the local brothel (though I doubt my town of 300 has one :), then the bouncer would toss me out on my face just as soon as I opened up my Bible...or as soon as I started talking about Jesus.

Standing outside the brothel might be different. That I could probably get away with.

Is standing outside an abortion clinic, preaching God's word, the same thing as standing outside a brothel?

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at June 23, 2003 11:11 AM

Jesus went into the house of tax collectors and ate with them - he went onto their turf even before they became his followers. He went into Gentile and Samaritan territory and interacted with them. Yes some people came to him - but he also went to them.

Then he told his disciples to 'Go into all the world' - he didn't say, go build a church and wait for people to come knock on your door so that they can become Christians - he told them to get out there and go.

As for ministry in brothels - I know a number of people who go into brothels to do ministry. Over time they have built relationships with the brothel owners and workers to the point where they now actually go into the brothel to care for and even do bible studies with the sex workers. I know other people who work on the streets with street sex workers - they care for them in very practical ways and at times have opportunity to share their faith. The approach is not to stand out the front of the brothel protesting - but to attempt to build relationships and bring about transformation from the inside.

I think there is a time to 'protest' on some issues - but there are others where I wonder if the protest does more damage than good.

As Christians we should be building relationships with all people - not just those who are willing to come onto 'our' turf.

Posted by: Darren at June 23, 2003 11:36 AM

Ok. I'll have to think about what you said. It sounds correct, though.

Should we merely minister to prostitutes? Or should we, in your opinion, be involved in attempting outlaw prostitution as well?

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at June 23, 2003 12:12 PM

As I read the gospels you see the crowds of people of all persuasions that were drawn to Jesus intially. they then begin to slowly abandon him, as they realize that all the various political, religous and social agendas they had put on Jesus were not being fuflilled. He dies alone on the cross apart from a small handful of his women followers, as the crowds of palm sunday had left, after he had failed to deliver their desired social revolution.

I wonder if we fall into the same trap that the crowds did when we do an exercise like this, because we place onto Jesus all our own agendas (whatever they may be). We extract one part of a much bigger story of God's interaction with humanity starting with the hebrew people, thus almost making it senseless, and Jesus a veneer to paint over our own skewed human worldviews.

Yet it is still an intruiging exercise, to me a far more exciting possibilty is that Jesus would choose places to hang out that would blow our minds, that would propably turn everyone in society agianst him. that he would choose places to hang out and people to associate with that would smash every preconcived paradigm that we have of him. I dunno, just a small thought.

Posted by: mark at June 23, 2003 12:21 PM

Why do 'christians' busy themselves in creating an environment of hate around the sex industry. 'christians' spend more time abusing prostitutes and women having abortions than they do just loving them anyway.

Have we forgotten about grace? I think so. Jesus told a parable about a big feast but when all the guys important friends didn't want to come, he sought after all the people who were the outcasts and provided for them.

Shame on us for not caring. Shame on us for having our priorities in other places.

By trying to shut down the abortion clinic or the local brothel, we've lost site of the bigger picture as much as the disciples had when they thought Jesus was there to remove the roman domination of Israel.

I just can't fathom how people just don't get Jesus and instead they turn him into a weapon with false instruction to terrorise the sinners at the abortion clinic and brothel.

Shame, shame on us...

Posted by: Regan at June 23, 2003 12:55 PM

I don't get how loving the sinner gets translated into overlooking the sin.

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at June 23, 2003 01:35 PM

Just a thought...think of a moment about some of the "sinners" that Jesus forgave. How many of them actually "repented" first and asked for Him to forgive their sins on God's behalf? How many of them first had Jesus condemn their sin to their face? Seriously? Something to think about...

Posted by: Jonathan at June 24, 2003 12:00 AM

I can't think of any case in which Jesus sought out and fellowshipped with unrepentant sinners. Rather, He stood out from the crowd and they came to him.

The tax collector Jesus ate with was ZACCHEUS! The guy who climbed the sycamore (sp?) tree trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. And his response to Christ was immediate repentance.

Christ would not be hanging around bars and brothels befriending unrepentant sinners, any more than he'd hang around self-righteous unrepentant hypocrites. I believe He would live a life of holiness and purity, speak out publicly, confront sin when needed and in whatever manner was appropriate. Just like He did 2000 years ago.

Posted by: Robert Williams at June 24, 2003 04:24 AM

thanks, Darren, for another great post. (no sense in hacking out which details I do or do not agree with; the point is it makes me think!) love people the way Christ loves us. that should be our goal.

Posted by: meg at June 24, 2003 01:40 PM

That's really thought provoking, thanks Darren.

Posted by: Timothy R. Butler at June 24, 2003 02:39 PM

Well, well, well. Looks like some of us need to crack out our bibles and start seeking the face of God, instead of scriptures that back up what we want to believe.

Matthew 9:9 "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Doesn't look like ole Matt was seeking out Jesus, does it? Rather, Jesus went out and got him.

Need some more--Jesus was always going places. How many times does a section start out--"Leaving that place" or a section end with "Jesus left them and went away." Some very committed few followed him everywhere, but mostly Jesus spent his public ministry going around to different cities/towns taking his ministry to the people.

And then there's the Samarian Woman--the Woman at the Well, in John 4. Do you realize how huge that was that Jesus was even in Samaria? The Isrealites and the Samarians had this big feud going on. The Samarians were sinners of the worst order to the "pure" Isrealites. It was an ethnic thing, as well as a religious thing. The Samarians were decendants of the Jews who weren't deported during the Babylonian/Assyrian Exile. They stayed behind in Isreal and intermarried with the pagen Babylonians/Assyrians who came to settle the territory. (Think what it would be like to be a Prostant married to a Catholic in Belfast--as a child of that kind of marriage, wouldn't both sides hate you--same thing for the Samarians). Then there's the fact that she was a woman--it was a big cultural no-no to talk to a woman in public, if you were a man. And she wasn't the most "moral" of women, ya know. She'd been around a bit.

Now, don't try to tell me that she was seeking out Jesus because she went to the well. She was hauling water--a common chore for women in the Middle East. She wasn't seeking Jesus. But He was there and he didn't pass up the opportunity to talk to her.

I gotta stop before I get real harsh here. Jesus reserved some of his harshest words for the Pharisees--people who knew the plan of God, but were too busy condeming everyone to tell them the Good News. They had forgotten the most important thing--none of us deserve to be saved. Not one. It's not about us, people, it's not about the rules. It's all about Jesus--and none of us even deserve Him.

faith, hope, and love,
Missy

Posted by: Missy at June 25, 2003 11:07 PM

right-on, Missy! I couldn't agree more!

Posted by: meg at June 26, 2003 12:03 PM

Missy beat me to it - Matthew was the first I thought of as I read Robert Williams' comment.

Jesus didn't say "say this prayer and follow me", or "get baptized and follow me". He just said "let's go". (Who knows when Matthew was "converted"?)

I've said it elsewhere before. Jesus seemed to "like" to hang out with sinners - that's why he came. The time he spent with those who would be considered "blameless" - the Pharisees, was generally unpleasant. For both parties.

Posted by: Mike at June 27, 2003 12:02 AM

Well, well, well. Looks like some of us need to crack out our bibles and start seeking the face of God, instead of scriptures that back up what we want to believe.

Because I disagree with you, I don't "seek the face of God"? That's uncharitable and unfair. If you want to discuss what the Bible teaches us, then let's do that, but why do you have to impugn my spiritual walk in the process?

I think you are misrepresenting my position. It's obvious Jesus went where the unsaved were (as though one could avoid it!). But that does not mean he was "hanging out" with them, in the sense described above.

Luke 19:10 says Jesus came to "seek and save that which was lost". When he sought out those that were lost, He immediately called them to repentance. He did not "hang out" with unrepentant sinners, nor should we. Certainly He wasn't hanging out in gay bars, strip clubs, and brothels, as was suggested.

We have to maintain an appropriately cordial relationship with unrepentant sinners (see 1 Cor 5:10). We cannot and should not shun them. I am not a monk. But at the same time, we must maintain some amount of separation. We are sanctified - literally, set apart. It wouldn't be appropriate to cross the street to avoid walking by an adulterer, but it also wouldn't be appropriate to hang around a strip joint.

Jesus didn't say "say this prayer and follow me", or "get baptized and follow me". He just said "let's go".

I think the extent of what it meant to follow Jesus was pretty clear. Consider:

Matthew 4:19-20 "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him."

Matthew 4:21-22 "...he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him."

Matthew 8:22 "But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."

I think Jesus does a good job of explaining the prerequisites here:

Matthew 16:24 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

Certainly Matthew understood what it meant, for Luke 5:28 says "he left ALL, rose up, and followed him".

A call from Jesus to "follow Me" could only be understood by a rational man as a call to repentance, or at least a call to begin seriously examining one's spiritual condition and considering what that meant. For instance,

Mark 2:15 "And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and **they followed him**."

Jesus explained to the scribes and Pharisees WHY He was eating with these people who followed Him in Mark 2:17 "I came ... to call ... sinners to repentance."

Christ does not call us to "be nice" as an end unto itself. He calls us to preach the gospel in our actions and words. Our good works are to bring glory to the Father. A mean person won't be an effective witness, but neither will a silent one.

We're called to be a city on a hill, a beacon that can't be hidden (Matthew 5:14).

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Posted by: Robert Williams at July 1, 2003 12:02 AM

"I can't think of any case in which Jesus sought out and fellowshipped with unrepentant sinners. Rather, He stood out from the crowd and they came to him."--Robert Williams

Matthew 10:25 "It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more more the members of his household."

What do you think Jesus was doing that they called him Beelzebul. He was challenging the traditions of the Jewish faith--traditions that the people had come to regard as holy. These traditions weren't of God--they were man's rules. God's rules were much simpler--and much harder to follow.

So, I challenged you. Really I was more upset with Peter saying "I don't get how loving the sinner gets translated into overlooking the sin.", but if the shoe fits, I suppose you can wear it, if you want.

Let me challenge you again, Robert. Matthew 7:16-20 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistels, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So, then you will know them by their fruit."

It's very easy to make our Christianity about our idenity instead of our mission. If I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing--studying the word, seeking God, loving Christ, etc..then my idenity is secure and I don't need to worry about it. But I can't forget the mission. Matthew 28:19-20 "To therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I command you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." See, Robert--Go, therefore. Not wait, therefore, for them to come to you because you're so wonderfully light and salty up on that hill.

See, I believe that we will be different from the world, but not so different that the world can't understand the message God has given us for them. If we get that different, I would suggest looking for the person who made up those "traditions" and "rules" that are dragging us away from the real Christ, because that's probably what's happening.

BTW, I was always told that 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 was refering to marriage, not friendships. Christ had enough relationships with sinners and tax collectors that the Pharisees tried to use this to discredit Him. Matthew 9:9-17, a great evangelical passage--the first Matthew party. Ole Matt got saved and then threw a party, inviting all his sinner buddies to meet Jesus.

Oh, and I'm a Nazarene, so I really understand the concept of sanctification. It's in our doctrine as the second work of grace that we experience after salvation. (Think Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or Christian Maturity). Paul understood this as being set apart for use by God. Sounds like you're more into the "set apart" bit and I'm more into the "use by God" bit. Maybe it's a matter of focus.

Posted by: Missy at July 1, 2003 11:58 PM

For the record, my name is spelled P-i-e-t-e-r, Messy. It's not spelled P-e-t-e-r.

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at July 2, 2003 02:40 AM

Pieter, terribly sorry that I Americanized that one. My mind must have done it without me noticing....

And "messy" applies way more than you probably know.

Posted by: Missy at July 2, 2003 05:18 AM

It's easy to see that both our environment and our experience will often form our "truth" no matter which verse we use to justify our position...

My concern is that we interact in a way that builds one another up and lovingly challenges each other to consider another thought...

For the record...I believe that the incarnation of Christ into the fallen, disillusioned world was one of the greatest acts of love and grace (mission?)and has had me in wonder in a new way recently...

Often we can fall into the trap of applying scripture to our arguments and situations that were never meant to be used or read in that way...contextualization of scripture is one of the greatest challenges of the present day and isn't that easy...perhaps we need to do more active listening? To the Spirit and to others.

Posted by: Andrew H at July 2, 2003 01:58 PM

Actually, it's not Americanized. "Pieter" is the Dutch form of the Greek name "Peter"...at least, I'm pretty sure "Peter" is Greek. I do know that "Pieter" is Dutch.

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at July 2, 2003 02:10 PM

Pieter,

My given name is Melissa--which is Greek (means honey bee). What I meant was that my American mind switched your name to the version that I know--Peter. Sorry.

BTW, care to expound on your comment that "I don't get how loving the sinner gets translated into overlooking the sin."?

Posted by: Missy at July 2, 2003 10:05 PM

Do you think Jesus would be hanging around to this to this petty argument about the origins of 'Peter'? Y'all need to chill out.

Posted by: Luke at July 3, 2003 11:37 PM

Well, I do want to know what exactly Pieter meant by "I don't get how loving the sinner gets translated into overlooking the sin."?


Posted by: Missy at July 4, 2003 01:02 AM

Missy: I said that because, from various things that various people said, it seemed that they were in essence saying that it was ok for a person to live however he pleased...as a homosexual, a prostitute, or God-knows-what...and that we should love the person no matter what. The definition of love that most of the people in this discussion seem to be operating under, however, is a "love" that accepts and overlooks and forgives anything and everything. It is this attitude that seems to lead to the erroneous notion that active, unchaste homosexuals (to use a single sinner-type as an example) can be Christians.

This is simply not true. After all, Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. One of the commandments we are given is that a man should not lie with another man. Now, if we don't love Christ (who is God), then we hate God. If we hate God, then God hates us (Psalms 5:5). If God hates sinners, then we also should hate sinners (Psalm 139:21).

Read this article about what love means.

Posted by: Pieter Friedrich at July 4, 2003 08:17 AM

Just gotta throw this into the mix, even though it's an "old" discussion. Here in Cape Town, South Africa, there's a church for prositutes - begun simply because there are those trapped in a lifestyle they can't see out of, but feel they need a place to meet God and that they'd be shunned if they turned up on an ordinary church doorstep. Pretty spot-on re the last one I suspect. Anyway, this church is providing a place for the street ladies to meet God and out of that has come some life-changing stuff.

Yes, we DO need to get out into the world to be able to see and change it. We need to be able to relate to how people "out there" perceive things in order to minister in a relevant way to them. There are many folk who simply won't come to us.

I don't feel we should hate the sinner. God requires us to love each other as Christians, to show His unconditional love. I believe that a conviction of "sin" in one's life comes into focus the closer you get to God - pretty soon you'll know you can't keep it up and still be completely God's.

And yes, if Jesus were here today we'd find him hanging out at the places folk need him most. Whether it's the member keeping up apperances in the back pew at church or the drunk passed out in the alley outside the bar. See this article on Next-Wave (http://www.next-wave.org/mar02/wherejesusis.htm) for inspiration!:)

Posted by: Michelle at October 17, 2003 01:39 AM
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