Links Daily Devotional

A Strange Entourage

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. (Mark 2:15, NIV)

I have played golf with hundreds of different people through the years. I have not loved all of them.

Yes, that is an unveiling of my sin nature. But you already knew that was there. It is also, we might say, “the way of the world,” wherein we do not appreciate all people the same. Some friends light up our day just by walking into the room; others produce the opposite effect, bringing stress or fear.

Sinners meeting up with sinners leads to predictable results.

But it is also true that people who have committed themselves to righteousness can fall in with the wrong crowd. “Bad company corrupts good character,” Paul reminded the Corinthians, and those who mark the cross references point us to Proverbs 22:24-25: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

It is more than a little fascinating, then, to recognize that Jesus seemed to ignore this kind of thinking entirely. It was his practice to hang out with noted sinners. Tax collectors, prostitutes, even hot-tempered men like James and John, the “Sons of Thunder”—these were the people who dined with Jesus.

As you likely know, this did not sit well with those who carefully chose their friends, proud religionists who didn’t dare run with the “unwashed masses,” be they Jew or Gentile. The Pharisees in particular in the Mark 2 account wanted to know what was up with Jesus’ choice of friends. They asked the disciples, but Jesus answered for himself: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

There’s an irony in this reply, for Jesus spent many sessions in his ministry uncovering the unrighteous character of these very leaders. They were themselves to be counted among the sick, though maybe only one or two eventually allowed for such an assessment.

All this leaves us with one grand question: If we are to be like Jesus, with whom should we be spending our time? After all, we speak often of the importance of Christian fellowship for the purpose of encouraging and exhorting one another in the faith. But if we lock onto the luxury of choosing our friends, we fall short in the mission God gives us. Our service is to extend to those who do not love us (Matthew 5:46-47) and our ministry to those who need Jesus as much as we do—that is, everyone.

Jeff Hopper
January 12, 2016
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