Yes, he had some characters around him, and they certainly weren’t perfect. The difference between those guys and “the sinner,” is simply a matter of direction.
This is where we seem to have difficulty in much of our modern social justice and evangelism.
We want to reach out to those in need (whatever that need is), to be kind, to be loving, to be inclusive, but often we do so at the expense of the truth.
The truth is that Jesus did, in fact, spend time with sinners, with the most despised people of His day. He loved them and we should, too.
But, when He did so, the invitation was clear: He was inviting them to come follow him, to go where he was going and do what he was doing – to build the Kingdom he was building – and it would cost them something. They must change their direction.
He was, and still is, asking, “Are you gonna go my way?” (to quote Lenny Kravitz)
He asked everyone to repent – which literally means, to change directions. That’s the invitation. He’s doing something new, something better, will we join him?
The invitation was never for him to change his direction and go with people into what they were doing, into their sin, into their way of life. He comes to transform our ways.
We love the story about the woman caught in adultery, because it’s such a picture of mercy. I’ve noticed people have begun referencing it to show how kind Jesus was, but without his last words to the woman:
“Go and sin no more,” or in another version, “go and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus said he didn’t condemn her AND told her to leave her life of sin.
Those are really important words, y’all. They may not be popular words, but that’s no surprise. We can’t leave that out or we aren’t giving a real invitation into new life.
We will all continue to fail and yes, we will sin, fall short, struggle with things, or whatever you wish to call it. The question is are we falling down while traveling the road behind Him?
That’s the issue.
He never stops reaching toward even the “worst” of us, His hand is always outstretched, His love never fails.
But, this is what He’s asking:
Are you gonna go my way?