In the 1990’s there was a fad phenomenon amongst the Christian culture wearing bracelets with the letters “WWJD?” standing for “What Would Jesus Do?”. We have all seen them. You probably wore one. I did.
I went to a State University that was exceptionally secular. They are renown for their school of evolutionary research (putting me, a biology major, in the vast minority believing in intelligent design), religious studies program (in fact, the Dalai Lama’s brother lives in town and he himself comes to speak on campus regularly) and school of liberal arts. On a campus of 36,000 students, there were maybe 1,000 students involved in campus ministries weekly. In fact, my freshman year on campus we were voted the #1 party school in the nation.
I found myself regularly in conversations with people who wanted to walk the line of sin, and an argument made by many-a-friend was “If Jesus were here He would be out in the bars”. WWJD? He would go to the bars. I have asked many of those friends who make that statement why they believe that, and this is the closest to an answer I could find in personal study in Scripture:
“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'”
– Matt 9.9-11
“After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?'”
– Luke 5.27-30
Usually when we see Jesus interacting with so-called sinners, he was in people’s homes. In this situation where he was specifically and verbally questioned by the religious leaders, he was in Levi’s home. When the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and they questioned him interacting with sinners, he was in Simon, the Pharisee’s, home (Luke 7.36). When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, he was at a well (John 4). But everywhere Jesus went, He was teaching and exhorting people to leave and abandon their lives of sin. “Go and sin no more” (John 8.11).
Jesus came for sinners. He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19.10). He came for the sick (Matt 9.12). And we know that we are all sick as there is none righteous, and none who seeks after God (Rom 3.10). And all have sinned and therefore all deserve judgment and damnation (Rom 5.12, Rom 3.23, Rom 6.23). Jesus came for us all.
But Jesus did not love the things of the world. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4.4). Jesus did not go out and get drunk. He did not go out and party. He went out and drew sinners in for teaching. He was always teaching. Every interaction we see of Jesus is teaching “sinners” or religious dogmatic leaders or slipping away for personal prayer time with the Father. Friendship with the world, living in the lusts of the world is enmity towards God. Enmity!
Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus called sinners. Jesus interacted with sinners. And he was not ashamed of what that would look like to anyone else. But the sinners came to Him. And He did not partake in their worldliness. Rather, He invited them to abandon everything and follow Him.
Therefore I think what we need to examine is our heart and motivation. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2.15). Are you going to the bar to talk to people about Jesus? Or are you going to the bar to drink and/or get drunk?
Now, I know that these types of self-examination can be misconstrued as legalism. My intention is not to discuss bars. My intention is to discuss the passion that drives every action of our lives. And I would argue that Scripture compels us to do everything to the glory and honor of God.
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31).
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col 3.23).
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4.29).
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5.3-4).
Do you go to the bar for the glory of God? Do you watch TV for the glory of God? Do you work and spend your free time for the glory of God? Do you care for your body to the glory of God? Do you eat and drink to the glory of God? Do you speak to the glory of God? Those Ephesians passages are convicting for me: no silly talk, no unwholesome word.
Let us not ask ourselves if such-and-such an action is permissible. Let us ask if it is best. Let us not flirt with sin, but let us live under grace to bring glory and honor to God.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5.13).
“Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2.16).
Jesus’ intention was to save sinners. Not to be like them.