To reach this world, to rescue mankind from sin, death and the devil, Jesus set the example for us as He regularly ate with tax collectors (who were abhorrent in the eyes of nationalistic Jews) and the biggest sinners in town. When His critics objected, He explained in Mark 2:17,
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. (NKJV)”
He chose to associate with those who had big problems, who needed healing, who needed help. He associated with them purposefully, to call them to repentance, to invite and encourage them to turn around.
Jesus’ critics were upset that He was “eating” with sinners because they had a cultural understanding that eating a meal was an intimate event, only to be shared with friends, only to be shared with those with whom you were willing to share your life. That bothered those who were living by the law, seeking to establish and maintain holiness through their self-effort. They knew their history and remembered how their forefather’s associated closely with their unbelieving neighbors and as a result compromised, embraced their idolatry and turned from God. In that day, humanism was a growing infection in the land and the Pharisees were cautious, doing all that they could to live separate lives. When Jesus crossed their walls of separation, they immediately pushed back and were critical.
Following Jesus’ example today, requires that we be willing to reach out to the biggest sinners in our communities. If we’re yielding to the Spirit, allowing Jesus to live through us, we should be entering into His experience and find ourselves surrounded by people who have chosen sinful and worldly lifestyles. And like Jesus, the association will be purposeful, to call sinners to repentance, to encourage people to turn around, to turn from sin to Jesus. If we’re to reach the world for Jesus, we need to connect with people who are worldly right where they are in the world.
It’s important to note that Jesus chose to eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus’ critics didn’t object to Jesus eating or drinking, but rather they objected to His choice of company. Eating and drinking are normal, necessary activities that are neither immoral or moral. Thus, Jesus connected with the biggest sinners in His community through activities that were the regular activities of human existence. Again, He is our example.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5 instructing the church to not “keep company with” those who call themselves believers but who at the same time continue to practice behavior that is clearly sinful. He didn’t want them to continue on sharing in the regular activities of life, acting as though everything is normal, with those believers who are choosing to live sinful lives. It would be wrong for us to act as though everything is okay when we know our brother or sister is choosing to live a sinful life. Rather, we have a responsibility toward one another to encourage one another to godliness, holiness, and Christ-honoring lives.
To reach the world, we should look for opportunities to meet the biggest sinners in the regular activities of life — the things that we do day by day. For some the opportunities may come at work, at school, at the grocery store, standing at a sporting event, or on a walk through the neighborhood. It may mean inviting the homosexual couple that just moved into your neighborhood out to dinner or inviting the local drug dealer to a cookout at your house.
What we never see in the gospels or in the book of Acts is Jesus or any of His apostles participating in sinful or immoral activities to reach sinners or to rescue the immoral. There’s no evidence that Jesus or any of His apostles attended pagan temples, participated in idolatrous feasts, or hung out in communal bathhouses (which were often places of sexual perversion). There’s no Biblical evidence that they attended gladiator contests (to be entertained by brutality) or chariot races (often associated with pagan religious festivals and extreme violence). They didn’t do anything to condone or show their approval of immoral behavior.
So when the question arises, “Should a Christian attend a same-sex ‘marriage?’” The answer should be based on whether a “same-sex” marriage ceremony is sinful. Is the ceremony a sinful event? If it is, then the question is “should we attend a sinful event to show support or love for the sinners involved?” There is no Biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit would lead a believer to participate in a sinful activity, or to support sinful activity even to reach sinners.
Marriage was created by God to be the union of one genetic male and one genetic female (Genesis 2:21-25). God created marriage to be a stable relationship to raise godly children (Malachi 2:15). He created marriage as a blessing for men and women to enjoy. But one of the chief purposes of marriage is to provide a living illustration of the relationship He desires to have with humanity — a covenant relationship of love (Ephesians 5:32). Same-sex marriage is an invention of man to attempt to normalize perverted sexual sin. It’s an affront to God, rebellion against God’s will, and a sin against His design. Those who officiate are defying God’s clearly revealed will for marriage. Far be it from us to give even our implicit approval through attending any sinful event that is conducted purposefully defying God’s revealed will (Romans 1:32).
The devil has been very effective in his deception. It’s unthinkable to me that eating with tax collectors and sinners can be equated with attending a same-sex marriage. The first is participating in an activity of normal human existence along with sinners, the second is participation an activity that is sinful. Perhaps the confusion regarding a proper response to homosexual marriage is simply additional evidence that we’re nearing the return of Christ. For Jesus indicated that it will be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot just before His return. In both cases people were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, with no sense that judgment was near (Luke 17:27-30). They were living like everything was normal, but in reality their societies had become exceedingly wicked and immoral.
Let’s reach the world, reach out to sinners, and meet them in the daily normal activities of life! May we never give approval to sinful activities which God condemns!