Sinners Wanted to be Around Jesus, Why Don’t They Want to be Around Us?


I dedicated myself to apologetics because it saved my faith, solidifies the faith of believers and is an invaluable tool for reaching the lost.  It is truly the evangelistic feature of defending Christianity that has made it my passion.

But is it enough?

From the time I first began reading the Gospels as a new Christian in 1997, I have been haunted by the fact that “sinners” wanted to be around Jesus but they don’t want to be around His followers today.  Think about this–Jesus is the incarnate, sinless, only begotten Son of God and “traitors” and prostitutes wanted to be around him.  But they typically flee from us like a vegan from a McDonalds!

I have thought a lot about when I was an atheist and the types of Christians I didn’t want to be around.  Typically, I avoided two types of believers: (1) the conspiracy theorist who identified every other world leader as the anti-Christ; and (2) the angry judgmental Christian.  The first category embarrassed me but the second annoyed me.

Part of my time in the atheist wilderness consisted of a stint in politics.  I had become a libertarian after reading the works of satirist P.J. O’Rourke but I worked for conservative Republicans.  I loathed the sour looks I would get from some Christians who permeated the GOP at the time when I would light up a cigarette (although today I would get those looks from the health obsessed leftist as well) or crack open a beer or accidentally let a curse word fly from my mouth.

I absolutely could not stand that look and I made it a point to avoid such a person with every fiber of my being.  But would Jesus have done so?

I had a theology professor in seminary who argued that what may have attracted “sinners” to Jesus was a non-threatening presence.  It makes sense.

Of course, Jesus didn’t remain quiet in the face of sin but His loving persona made it generally tolerable for the person to hear.  My father once said that the best minister or mentor was someone who could tell you, “you are wrong” and still make you feel good! In my experience, such a person has a gentle strength about him or her and that’s truly an attribute every Christian should possess.

Apologists should especially take note.  We few, proud nerds of the Kingdom devour books, lectures, podcasts and blog posts and such an arsenal of knowledge can intimidate people.

What can we do?

We need to remember that as important as it is to always be able to give an answer (1 Peter 3:!5), we must do so as gently as possible with as much love for the person in front of us as possible.  We need to remember to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day to remember that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we are always in a better position than we deserve.  We need to engage in the spiritual disciplines to stay close to God and remind ourselves always of our utter dependence upon him.

Finally, we also need to pray for every unbeliever around us.  Last week, I was privileged to attend a few of the sessions on evangelism at Xenos Church’s annual Summer Institute.  Lee Strobel stated that one of the things that constantly drives him to prayer for the lost was this question: If Jesus showed up in person to his house and said He would grant all of his prayers from last week, how many new members of the Kingdom would there be? Lee reminded everyone in attendance that Jesus prayed for sinners right up to his last breath on the cross.  We are all servants and no servant is above his master (John 13:16).

Let us all pray, fast and reflect on the grace given to us until we cultivate a non-threatening presence so that the lost may truly have ears to hear the defense of the hope we have within us.

Until next time, grace and peace.

12 thoughts on “Sinners Wanted to be Around Jesus, Why Don’t They Want to be Around Us?

  1. Matt, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, so I’m going to ask what may seem like a stupid question… Do you believe Jesus was happy while here on earth? I find it increasingly difficult with the things going on in my personal life , not to mention the things going on in the world , to feel happy and light hearted. I found myself pondering the question, was Jesus a ” happy ” man while here? I know he had joy, He was God in the flesh, but He also knew what must take place, so , from my perspective anyway, would make it hard to be anything but serious. I guess I’m wondering if His personality was generally cheerful?? If you think it’s a stupid question , feel free to say so. Thanks for listening :)

    • I think people felt He cared for them regardless of whether He was melancholy or not. I know I have been down in the dumps but have had those I am discipling still tell me they felt how much I cared for them. I think that is the key.

    • Comment is over a month old, and I guess I’m sort of barging in on your question, but I’d been thinking about happy vs. joyous off and on lately, and thought I’d toss in my 2 cents if you don’t mind.

      I think “he had joy” is probably the best lead on Jesus’ emotional state while walking as one of us here. I think joy is even more attractive than happiness and cheerfulness to people, because it has a depth that the others do not. A person can be joyful whether he is happy, cheerful, melancholy, or fearful. Joy, I think, comes from a different source than the others — I think it is a gift that is communicated through the spirit by the Spirit. Joy feels and looks genuine, always, whereas the other emotions are always tinged with suspicion.

      So, I think Jesus was joyful, and no matter what emotion he might have been feeling at any given moment with various people, the joy always showed and dominated. I think it was his genuine loving affection for sinners and his overflowing joy that attracted people to him.

  2. Perhaps I’m mistaken but Jesus called to himself sinners who had been cast out and who were despised by those in power; individuals who could not or were prevented from joining in the temple worship or who were told that because of who they were they could have no part in presence of the Lord. Jesus called them by proclaiming the ‘Good News’ that all are welcome in God’s presence as we all are sinners and we all can be forgiven.

    Today, it seems, that sinners are not the outcasts of society. They are glorified by society so why should they seek to be around those who would say to them, “Go and sin no more” even if that is said in love.

    • Toddes, they do feel like outsiders as far as the Christian culture and they do feel judged by them even though they are still outside the camp. Blessings.

  3. Just a minor point- it seems contradictory to say you “accidentally let” a curse word slip out.
    That happens- the accidental – to add that you “let” it happen means that you allowed it. The bigger picture- you loathed the disapproval for smoking, drinking and cursing, however you would have known that it something that that group of people would not approve. Kind of blaming them for being what you knew they would be. You say you” couldn’t stand that look”
    and I know what you mean…but are you not judgmental for things that you strongly believe also.
    Your passion against such Christians indicates you are giving that look back in words.

    • JS–when I was an atheist, what objective grounds did I have for NOT judging. Christians have such grounds and should be motivated by it, yes?

  4. Not quite a true statement. Sinners didn’t want to be around Peter, or John. Saints did. Sinners SHOULD want to be around Jesus because HE gives hope! WE do not. We, like John the Baptist point people to have hope in JESUS only. The modern worldly christian ministry CRAVES people’s affection. That is wrong.

    • I don’t know Craig. I see what you’re saying, but just off the top of my head I can think of examples of people wanting to be around Peter and John. Didn’t Peter eat with gentiles until he chickened out? These couldn’t have been brothers and sisters in Christ or why would he have left them when the Judaizers came through? He was reaching out to others. Also, people flocked to John the Baptist — sinners did — and sure, he wasn’t the most gentle of men (and when they did come of course he pointed them to Jesus). But do you think they came out there because they knew he was gonna heap abuse on them? It was only with the religious types that he questioned their motives and got nasty with them. And for some reason the stories I see in Acts (like when Peter and John healed the lame beggar, or even Peter’s first sermon) lead me to believe that they were approachable. This certainly wasn’t ministry that craves affection, but their approach when with sinners was quite Christlike — different, yes, because they weren’t Jesus themselves — but they did model his compassion and love for others. They certainly didn’t stand up and say “OK everyone, listen up! First step to being a good Christian — quit smoking, swearing and drinking.” We must stand firm in our convictions, but I would prefer to be known for what I stand /for/ and not against.

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