Two men at a bar

The Problem with Jesus

At least he was honest enough to admit it. “I have a real problem with Jesus on this one.”

I had just shown a clip from our upcoming documentary film When God Left the Building, which shows a Christian police officer who wants to start an outreach in a local pub.

After viewing the clip, this man approached me and shared his discomfort with Christians who would allow themselves to be seen in or near a bar. “What kind of witness is that?” he asked. “Especially when the Bible is so clear about the evils of alcohol.”

I reminded him that Jesus faced criticism for hanging out with those whom the religious establishment looked down upon. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'”

“I know,” he said. “And that bothers me.”

He told me how alcohol is the root of “all of society’s problems.” He said he seizes every opportunity to condemn those who drink. “We are called to confront sin whenever we see it,” he said. “And that policeman is not helping the cause.”

Before I could remind this man of Jesus’ first miracle, he brought it up. “I know Jesus turned water into wine,” he said. “That’s always bothered me.”

I asked, “If Jesus were standing right here, what would you say to him?”

He said, “I’d ask him, ‘What were you thinking?!'”

Things haven’t changed much since Jesus’ time. Some religious folk still seem to find delicious delight in one-upping Jesus when it comes to delivering judgment.

20 Responses to “The Problem with Jesus”

  1. Charlie Robinson Reply April 2, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Since when is the Bible against alcohol/wine/etc? It is certainly against drunkenness, in the same way it is opposed to gluttony but not against eating! The brother must follow the path he thinks correct on this, but I think he needs to get to know the real Jesus (divine and human) and not the “almost-but-not-quite-Jesus” much of Christianity proclaims.

    • The Bible is not ‘against’ alcohol. On the other hand it portrays God as being ‘for’ the weak, oppressed, poor, etc. It is a fact that alcohol is related to many significant social problems, including domestic violence and the hardship endured by alcohol-dependents’ families. So _one_ reasonable response is for Christians to work for a reduction in alcohol consumption, and for some of us abstaining from alcohol is an act of solidarity which I believe is blessed by God. To go from there to never visiting a pub or calling alcohol ‘sinful’ is a big step too far. For many people a quiet talk at their local may be the best way to meet Christ….

  2. I had this discussion with someone just last week when pondering possible new venues for a Lifetree Cafe or similar group meeting. Her argument was that it “defiled Christ” and would not accept my assertion that just maybe the opposite could be true in that it might “sanctify sinners.” Are we really worried that the Holy Spirit is less powerful than the spirits of alcohol? She also emphatically stated any church “family life center” is a truly “neutral civic place” that anyone should feel comfortable walking in to. Maybe we need to consider that the “open door” of our church isn’t just to welcome those who might come, but to encourage us out into the community.

  3. I love this example. I am so using this at the next council meeting (tonight) at my church.

  4. Some people’s real issue is with Jesus.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you Charlie Robinson. If you really want to know Jesus, you have to walk to the same places that He walked. That includes places like the bar and dark alleys or wherever else He needed to go to share His love. I would go into a bar and not drink if I knew that someone needed my help or wanted to talk about Christ or anything to help the person find peace.

  6. “We are called to confront sin whenever we see it.” Would someone please give me scripture references for this? I hear it all the time and I honestly don’t know where Christians get that idea. If there is Biblical commandment to do so, I really do want to know.

    • I think the verse you are talking about is Ephesians 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Now this is not talking about reproving other people. In verse 7 it says, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” In other words don’t do the sinful things of the people you happen to be with. So this is talking about yourself to have no fellowship with unfruitful ‘works’ of darkness in doing them yourself but reprove your own actions if you find yourself getting sucked into them. I think people take this to say they are suppose to reprove other people when they are sinning and have no fellowship with those people but Jesus did have fellowship with sinners. Jesus only didn’t partake in their unfruitful ‘works’.

      • Maureen Small April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am

        Great reply, Ryan. I would interpret that verse as you did. If anyone else has any other scripture they think backs up their claim that we’re called to confront sin, I’d like to hear it.

  7. The religious establishment in Jesus’ day were famously focused on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. They were focused on who was in and who was out. Who should be accepted and who should not be associated with. Who was or was not permitted to enter the temple grounds. Jesus stood opposed to those authorities in his day and instead fraternized with the tax collectors and sinners. It appears to me that the American Evangelical church has become indistinguishable from the religious insiders of first century Palestine. We have simply lost our focus. If Jesus appeared among us today, many of those who claim to know him would not recognize him. But I sense that a new wind is blowing. The Spirit is beginning to move in new and wonderful ways. Time for some new wine skins!

    • Well said! I completely agree. There was a time when I realized that if I were alive in Jesus’ day, I would’ve been a Pharisee. It was a wake up call for me. Hopefully I’ve changed :)

    • There was no first century Palestine. It was Israel. The Roman Emperor Hadrian invented the “Palestine” term in the second century in an effort to re-write history without the Jews and Israel in the land. “Palestine” was a twisting of the name for Phoenicians who lived on the coast of ancient Israel: the Philistines…the people who gave us Goliath.

  8. We are made to connect to God and to help others connect to God as well and that comes with connecting with one another. I think the solution in life is that Jesus was not an entertainer, but a realist who met people where they where at and just simply did life with them. The church is about Worshipping God and doing life together because at times life is just simply crummy.

  9. My friend had this same conversation with me and as he was “reaching out” at bars, found himself drunk, losing his virginity to a woman he barley knew and met there. They wed and got divorced just a few years later. I’m all for shining light in dark places unless that darkness is overcoming you. It takes a team to remain accountable to one another and serious commitment to meting honest with oneself before The Lord.

  10. So many of the comments seem to have come from Christianity of history rather than examination of what is given of Jesus’ life and teachings. Stop and remember that he was born of a Jewish woman and therefore Jewish and that, at that time, there was no such thing as Christianity. Also, a Church is not a building, it’s a Community. Jesus’ teachings are very well limited to about three statements — God is Love (not a lover), love God and Neighbor, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do that and you have fulfilled the law (the whole 700+ of them).

    In addition to all that, the Church deifies Jesus and then does not give us any new feeling of God other than the same anthropomorphic view of Judaism which the same for all the tribal religions of that time. The major problem is the treating of the two books of the bible — Old and New Testaments as literal words of God. The Church should stop and wonder — Was the entire Cosmic creation the work of a Creator as pictured on the ceiling of a Chapel in Rome? The Church has to accept evolution which is evident everywhere if one only “has eyes that see” or “ears to hear” (except the many church theologies). I am only 87 years old and I assure you the world has evolved — people’s creations greatly but people not so much (we seem not able to avoid fighting over something and being right (the big shot).

    In the words of my paternal great grandfather (late 1800’s), “In religion – the accepted definition – I haven’t any; yet, I am intensely religious in my veneration of the Author of this Universe.” of which I am a part (my addition). In spite of that view, I have found a minister who seems to speak my view so well that I rarely miss a Sunday. I know that I can talk to him and he listens and so do I. A salvation is not theological agreement but for a moment we have a community of two which, in truth, is becomes One. That is a finding of God!

  11. What I want to know is how many people are attracted to and saved in our so called “religiously approved” meeting place? if the facts are to be believed which is that only 1% of American Churches are growing, then the answer is minimal.

    Just noticed that Jesus said “go into all the world and make disciples…” He didn’t say “go into all the world except pubs, clubs, beaches, train stations, libraries, schools, universities, marches, parliament, hostels, streets, used car yards, etc. etc. etc where all manner of sin might be lurking.

  12. All right, so he asked a question. Let’s not condemn him for it, answer it! What was Jesus thinking? Laughing or criticizing off other’s questions is one of the worst things we can do.

  13. Too many Christians have bought into the lie that the things we do can undo the salvation that was fully secured by Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the height of arrogance to think that the power of our will, of our sin, is more powerful than the blood of Christ. Those that propagate that myth are doing nothing more than manipulating others, “See, you can be just as holy as me, if you don’t drink, smoke or chew, and don’s associate with those that do.”

    Sure if we love Christ and name His name, we should try to be the best example of him we can, but sometimes in doing so we set a standard so high it scares non believers away. Christ set us free from sin and death. We are to live free, trying to live for him, but accepting the fact that we will continue to sin until the day we die. None of us is immune from it. I am not preaching “license” here, but rather “grace and mercy”. If we exhibit a “normal” lifestyle, instead of being “holier than thou” all of the time, and we acknowledge that we are always in need of his forgiveness, it lets the world know that we are just like them, only we have an advocate that intercedes for us, and they can too. It’s not a rule book that we can’t deviate from, that is impossible for anyone.

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