Setting the record straight on Jesus, ‘the friend of sinners’

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Most people know Jesus was called "a friend of sinners," but what does that mean exactly? - Image courtesy of Christophe Ducamp (

Most people know Jesus was called "a friend of sinners," but what does that mean exactly? - Image courtesy of Christophe Ducamp (

Most people know Jesus was called "a friend of sinners," but what does that mean exactly? - Image courtesy of Christophe Ducamp (

Most people know Jesus was called “a friend of sinners,” but what does that mean exactly? – Image courtesy of Christophe Ducamp (

Many people know that the New Testament refers to Jesus as a “friend of sinners,” but what does that mean exactly? Apparently not what some Christians think it does.

In response to a twitter comment I made about Christian singer Natalie Grant walking out of The Grammys, Joe Carter, prominent Calvinist and director of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission rhetorically asked, “Didn’t [Jesus] only welcome those seeking forgiveness?” He went on to agree with another that “The sinners Jesus partied with were already followers.”

Theological sirens blared inside my head as Carter doubled down on his assertion that Jesus wasn’t really a friend of sinners, but I assumed it was probably a fringe view I wouldn’t likely encounter again.

A few days later, however, a friend emailed me a blog post from The Gospel Coalition titled, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners: But How?”, written by another Calvinist, Kevin DeYoung. He said that Christians needed to be “safeguarded against doctrinal and ethical error” regarding Jesus’ social habits.

“Jesus gladly spent time with sinners who were open to his teaching…Jesus embraced sinners who believed in him,” DeYoung wrote before concluding, Jesus “was very pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him.“*

The sirens returned. Was there really a conditionality in Jesus’ relationships? Carter’s and DeYoung’s assertions didn’t square with what I know about Jesus from the New Testament. Christ preached the Kingdom everywhere he went, but he also indiscriminately and unconditionally forged relationships with those at the margins of society, offering them a seat at the table. This scandalous social practice earned Jesus that nasty nickname to begin with.

But I’m a columnist and not a Bible scholar, so I decided to investigate in case I was wrong. After all, hell hath no fury like a Calvinist scorned.

I first contacted Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and author of such books as “The New Testament in Antiquity.” I asked him about the notions espoused by Carter and others that the “sinners” with whom Jesus fellowshipped were actually followers. Burge replied, “I’m surprised that someone would actually say that.”

He cited several texts such as Matthew 9:10-11 and 9:13 where Jesus extends fellowship to individuals and the text says “nothing about their interest in the gospel or their repentance or their willingness to put faith in him.”

Of DeYoung’s ideas, Burge says, “I think that Jesus’ reputation was just the opposite. The complaint against him was that he spent time with people without pre-conditions.”

Next, I spoke with Darrell Bock, senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and author of “Studying the Historical Jesus” and “Truth Matters.” When I asked him if Jesus only welcomed those seeking forgiveness, Bock said, “I don’t think that’s true at all.”

Bock referenced the New Testament stories of the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well, two individuals who didn’t approach Jesus and brought nothing to the table. “Jesus is encouraging people who are taking positive steps, but he associates with all people with no strings attached,” Bock said.

Joel Green, professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of “The World of the New Testament,” echoed Bock and Burge’s perspectives. He mentioned multiple passages in the Gospel of Luke—including chapters 7, 11, and 14—where Jesus has fellowship with those who don’t respond well or the story is left open. He described Jesus’ associations and meal-sharing practices as “fairly non-discriminate.”

[Editor’s note: the previous paragraph has been revised to clarify that Joel Green was responding to the general argument, not to anything specific that Joe Carter said.]

Responding to DeYoung’s statements, he said, “I get the point that Kevin DeYoung is trying to make, but I think it would be problematic to think that Jesus has already predetermined what kind of ‘sinner’ he is going to hang out with in order to determine who will and won’t hear the good news. This makes it sound like Jesus will only hang out with those who will respond positively to him. This is not true.”

But does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits?

It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.

Perhaps Carter’s ideas work well in his hometown of Ashburn, Virginia. Maybe DeYoung easily lives out the implications of his thinking in East Lansing, Michigan. But try living out the belief that you should offer fellowship only to those who “are open to the gospel” in New York City where only a tiny sliver of the population is Christian. Come to my neighborhood in Brooklyn where you’ll see far more menorahs at Hanukkah than trees at Christmas and see how well that works. You’d never leave home.

Additionally, this type of thinking can degrade the very essence of relationship by forcing us to see people more as projects than friends. As Christine Pohl, professor of church in society at Asbury Theological Seminary and co-author of “Friendship at the Margins” told me, “Befriending someone so that you can evangelize them is manipulative and undermining of trust.”

Pohl added that Christians who desire the best for their friends will share the Christian gospel with them, “[but] we undermine the practice of friendship whenever we use it instrumentally. When the bonds we form in friendship are mostly a means to another end, we dishonor both the person and the relationship.”

As some Christian leaders attempt to reimagine Jesus’ social habits, it’s time we set the record straight on the friend of sinners. There’s too much at stake.

A Jesus who loves us even if we don’t love back? A Savior who pursues us even as we run away? A Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached? That would be a Jesus who is better than we’ve imagined, and that would be good news.

*emphasis mine

  • Tim Johnson

    Thanks for these thoughts, Jonathan! I had been processing/wrestling with Kevin DeYoung’s suggestion that Jesus spent time with sinners who were sorry for their sins. I respect DeYoung and have benefited from his writings, but I, too, found myself taking exception to his assertion.

    I kept thinking of Romans 5:8 – in that WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, Christ demonstrated the ultimate act of sacrifice, an unmistakeable overture to those who didn’t give him the time of day.

    Look forward to hearing you speak at the Catalyst West lab in less than two weeks!

  • Kamilla


    I’d go with CDD (Calvinism Derangement Syndrome).

  • Copy nThe second to last paragraph drops off mid-sentence. Also, “But try living our the belief” should be “living out,” I assume.

    As far as the actual content of the article goes, I would like to see you make a positive case from Scripture to show that Jesus befriended unrepentant sinners and never called them to repentance. In both of the cases you cite (textual issues with the pericope adulterae aside), Jesus calls them to repent. Similarly, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, yet we are clearly called to repent, no?

  • Michael McKeever

    Thanks for this balanced, biblical, and timely follow up, Jonathan.

  • So much to like in this essay. Your mention of utilitarianism and abuse in relationships designed for evangelism revealing an ethical problem for Evangelicals is spot on. I especially found this paragraph significant:

    “Does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must ‘live as Jesus did.’ If Christians only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

    When I wrote a blog post years ago on Moreheads Musings on our Food, Fellowship, and Faith dialogue dinners in our neighborhood this is the criticism I received: That one must not open oneself to potential contamination through such practices and that this was not Jesus’ way as “friend of sinners.”

    We are trying to teach and model a different way forward at the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, one that looks at Jesus’ example with Gentiles and Samaritans. Thanks for addressing this issue.

  • Micah

    “This makes it sound like Jesus will only hang out with those who will respond positively to him.”

    … or you could say, those PREDESTINED to respond positively to Him?

    (Seems like maybe there’s some of the “God really only truly loves the elect” creeping into these Calvinists’ reading of Jesus’ friendship with “sinners”.)

  • MC

    So did he misrepresent you in this article or are you just responding because he took you to task? If you were misrepresented, then call him out and tell us how he misrepresents. If not, then take your lumps and be quite.

  • Paula

    Gotta say, I just read your piece. And I don’t understand what Jonathan got wrong. I read the tweets as tweets, –provocative, over the top statements — but I thought he took the more serious point and engaged it. And when I went to your article, I was not suprised by anything I read there.

    Maybe he sent your full article to Bock, Burge & Green, or maybe he sent DeYoung’s full article, which he links to here. I’ll be surprised if he didn’t send one — but I don’t think it was necessary to send both to get the idea.

  • Joe Carter

    He has misrepresented what I wrote. The full quote of that Tweet was, “You don’t think Jesus was turned off by the depravity of sinners? Didn’t he only welcome those seeking forgiveness?” By welcome, I was referring to welcome into the Kingdom.

    Later on I wrote, “Can you point to any instance where Jesus was hanging out with people who flaunted their sin?” That was the part that provides the context for “He went on to agree with another that ‘The sinners Jesus partied with were already followers.'” My point (as I state in my article) is that Jesus would not, as JM contends, attend an event where people were flaunting their sin.

  • Darcy Knight

    That’s a somewhat over the top response for a man who is a Christian. You are, right? Then take a deep breath and remember who you are, and that Jesus would a whole lot calmer than that, whether you agree with what he said or not.

  • Well I don’t see any malice in this article? Just a reasoned and Biblical argument that Jesus was truly a friend of sinners (repentant or not) and that he was radically hospitable to them to the point where they impacted them in some way.

    Calvinism indeed lol.

  • Joe Carter

    The dispute between Jonathan and me is over the question of whether Jesus would have out with people who were flaunting their sin (such as at a same-sex wedding). He is implying that Bock, Burge, and Green all agree with him on that point when I suspect they do not.

  • Frank

    Jesus was a friend of sinners because it is only him that can save them. It has little to do with what we would call friendship.

  • I’m actually not implying that at all. Referencing something that is neither mentioned nor hinted at in the piece shows you are, once again, missing the point.

  • I’m brought up your twitter conversation, not your article. And both tweets I mentioned are hyperlinked above.

  • Bob Kundrat

    I don’t see that Joe Carter is missing the point. In this blog post I don’t see you ever addressing the issue of whether or not Jesus would have hung out with people who flaunt their sin. That was Joe Carters main issue and you say nothing about it here.

    Given that you mention state our desire to know Jesus social habits in order to live like Him it would seem that the issue you didn’t address is the very one that needs to be addressed.

    Your article here doesn’t make it clear that you stated that as being the prime issue when you engaged Bock, Burge and Green.

  • Becky

    Yes, Jonathan, thank you for this Biblical interpretation and follow up

  • Nell Parker

    How do you go anywhere in which sinners are not in some sense sinning-even you? Or is it just certain sins that are to be avoided?

  • Great post! The one thing that is inarguable is that Jesus did NOT hang out with the religious leaders of his time. In fact, at every corner he opposed how they practiced their faith by saying, “Dude, you guys just don’t get it and you’re not even close to getting it.” (FYI, not an exact quote, more of my translation.)

    Most of the stories we read about in the bible are of when a person did respond to him positively. However, we know not everyone did (see the story of “The Rich Young Ruler”, Matt. 19). Can’t you imagine there were many more who refused him? How often do we see that in our own experience every day?

    So, what we can safely speculate from the texts is that Jesus incarnate 2k14 would not hang out with DeYoung or Carter but would most likely, instead, be hanging out in the places he could befriend the reprobates of life–bars, red light districts, meth houses, motorcycle gang weekend rides & Carnies. I’m not saying he wouldn’t set foot in a church. He probably would. But it would be most likely just to overturn our modern day equivalent of money tables.

    My most frequent prayer is that I am less like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and more like Jesus himself. I am grateful for those who inspire me to hang out more with the reprobates of life.

  • Joe Carter

    Actually, you are implying quite a lot. You not only left out key parts of our Twitter conversation but you left out an article I wrote that clarifies what I believe on the subject.

    Your article also implies that Bock, et al., think that Jesus would hang out with sinner who flaunt their sin. In essence, you are making it sound as if they agree with you that Jesus would, for example, attend a same-sex wedding. Surely you don’t really believe they agree with you on that point, do you?

  • Joe Carter

    Then why the selective quoting? Why not mention the key tweet that was at the heart of the discussion? (“Can you point to any instance where Jesus was hanging out with people who flaunted their sin?”) Why point out a response to another tweet rather than what I actually wrote?

  • Bob


    Joe’s question is fair. Do you believe that Jesus would hang-out socially with people who are flaunting their sin without calling them to repentance?

  • TJ Fleming

    Does Jesus make a distinction in the gospels between people ‘flaunting their sin’, being sinful, and being good?

  • Ben

    How on earth can you read the gospels and walk away thinking, “It is really important for me to only hang out with the right kinds of people.”?

    There was a group of people like that. And they are the antagonists of the story. They stand opposed to what Jesus is doing. And they obsessively tried to get it right. They set boundaries and rules and made extra ones so they would never have to hang out with the wrong person. And it pissed Jesus off.

    But he still hung out with them!

    I don’t want to follow Jesus if it makes me act like a Pharisee.

  • Kevin DeYoung

    Hi Jonathan. You say, “Maybe DeYoung easily lives out the implications of his thinking in East Lansing, Michigan. But try living out the belief that you should offer fellowship only to those who ‘are open to the gospel’ in New York City where only a tiny sliver of the population is Christian.” Do you think my post was arguing that Christians should only spend time with those open to the gospel? If so, could you show me where I make that statement?

  • John Knox

    Yes, Jesus was unconditional in his love for everyone BUT that doesn’t mean that he was affirming of everyone’s lifestyle. Yes, he hung around and entertained marginalized people BUT that doesn’t mean that he thought what they were doing was healthy. Seriously, check out the Scriptures and see how often Jesus encouraged people to stop sinning–be it hate, greed, arrogance, cruelty, sanctimony, etc. Yes, he showed compassion and judgment mercy to the woman caught in adultery, BUT he also said, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus wouldn’t have hung out at a same sex marriage because under the Law homosexuality was immoral and illegal AND Jesus was Jewish. In fact, if he was indeed part of the Trinity, he was involved in the the composition of the Law. Old Testament and New Testament, my friends–you have to have a holistic approach (unless you want to promote a personal social agenda)

  • Blake Wyatt

    Great article. The way I see it is that Jesus regularly hung out with people who “flaunted their sin.” The woman at the well was “flaunting her sin” because she went at noon and not when the other women went. The woman caught in adultry “flaunted her sin” as she was standing there naked hoping not to get stoned to death. And when Jesus went to dinner at the tax collectors with other “disreputable sinners” you know darn good and well that they were not followers but “disreputable sinners” and, more than likely, were “flaunting their sin” to see just how Jesus would react to them.

    The ONLY people Jesus did not intentionally hang out with were the Pharisees. The religious leaders who thought they had all the answers and missed the bigger point. The Pharisees sought out Jesus, not to confirm that He was the Messiah…the Saviour…but to catch Him in a trap and figure out a way to kill him.

    Today, Pharisees aren’t killing Jesus but are pushing people who “flaunt their sin” further away from the very truth that can deliver them from the sin that separates them from their Saviour. And the last 4 sentences in the article is the Jesus I follow and serve!

  • Um, Jesus loved everyone–even the religious leaders. And he did, occasionally, “hang out with them.” Read Luke 7, starting with verse 36: “When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.” So, I get your point but the Bible is clear that Jesus occasionally hung out with religious leaders.
    I love this article, because I agree that Jesus didn’t worry about people’s response to his friendship–he loved indiscriminately. But I’m curious about the original idea taken to task. What does it mean to “flaunt your sin”? Does it mean you sin? When does sinning cross the line into “flaunting”? If I make the same mistake twice, am I a flaunter? What about the sin of pride? How can you tell someone is flaunting that? Wouldn’t tax collectors and prostitutes (the text does not say, “former prostitutes”) still be sinners? By their very nature, wouldn’t they be sinners who flaunt? Yes, Jesus calls us all to repentance, but he meets us where we are first.

  • Jesus preached the Kingdom everywhere he went to everyone he met. His encounters forced all he encountered to make a choice, to respond to him. But Jesus did not offer friendship conditionally.

  • Joe Carter

    Since Jonathan decided to update his article to — once again — selectively quote my tweets, let’s show them in order:

    Joe: Can you point to any instance where Jesus was hanging out with people who flaunted their sin?

    JM: Luckily, Christians today are thinking more deeply about culture. This brand of pietistic separatism is fading quickly.

    Bob: I often agree with u [JM], but you perpetuate a common myth. The sinners Jesus partied with were already followers.

    Joe: Exactly. I’m surprised folks are still perpetuating that myth.

  • Great response, Jonathan. Loved this part: “But try living out the belief that you should offer fellowship only to those who “are open to the gospel” in New York City where only a tiny sliver of the population is Christian.” I’m with you 100%. As an evangelical living in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I’m the religious minority, I’m so glad you said that.

  • To question if Jesus would attend a same-sex wedding is to question whether there are some people He would accept and some people He wouldn’t. Doesn’t He first love us? How else can love be demonstrated to one who doesn’t know you than to go where they are and knock on some doors? He didn’t prop Himself up in the synagogue and say, “Here I am, if you’re interested in repentance, you know where to find me.” Even His last words tell us to GO. Our mandate is to build relationship. It is in our nature to be divisive. To position ourselves in a more fitting light or a place that is more comfortable and we call it being holy. Jesus never displayed His holiness in piety. He displayed it in humanity. And we are challenged to do the same. He touched the unclean. Literally. There was no distinction. Only in light of an equal playing field am I able to look fully in the mirror and see my own sin. If the playing field is slanted, so is the mirror I use to look at myself.

  • Joe Carter


    That might be a “great response” if Jonathan was responding to anyone who actually believed we should fellowship with “only to those who ‘are open to the gospel.’” But neither Kevin nor I ever said that.

    What I said is that Jesus would not party with people flaunting their sin. Jonathan said this was “pietistic separatism.” Jonathan seems to imply that Jesus would go anywhere and welcome anyone. If that is true, does hie think Jesus would hang out with pornographers during filming or Satanists during a black mass?

  • Joe Carter

    Yeah, I think he did. But let’s see if people really agree that Jesus would hang around when people were “flaunting their sin” and not call them to repentance:

    1) A Nazi keg party celebrating their latest massacre.
    2) A set where a porn film is being shot.
    3) A black mass held by Satanists.

    Do we really think Jesus would be cool with hanging out in these locations since he’s a “friend of sinners”?

  • Ian

    Probably not “hang-out” with. He’d probably appear and tell them to go and sin no more and leave it at that. He probably wouldn’t grab a ginger ale, sit down and wax poetic about the Knicks game last night in that location.

  • Frank

    Jesus would go to a SSM ceremony to teach them what a Godly marriage is; one man plus one woman.

  • Nate Sparks

    Joe Carter,

    I feel like you are escalating in anger rather than carrying dialogue toward the goal of edification. That being said, consider that Jesus attended at least one party where a prostitute showed up (notice Simon’s alarm wasn’t that she was there but that Jesus let her wash his feet). He was caught in the middle of a public trial and took the side of the defendent, who was caught red handed in her sin. He kept company with Judas who was filling his pockets from the treasury. Heck the parties he attended even earned him the reputation of a “lover of wine” in some circles.

    So, to answer your rather pointed and repetitive questions: yes! Christ absolutely called people from a place of sin to a place of faith; but first he had to meet them in their circumstances, in their sin. And, of course he wouldn’t attend a porn shoot — to be perfectly honest such hyberbole is immature and unhelpful — but that doesn’t mean he would avoid the entire neighborhood because there was a studio there. Nor would he skip out on a party if a porn star showed up. Instead, he would demonstrate his radical love that drew so many others into the kingdom.

    I don’t know you, so I don’t want to sound harsh. However, I think if you were to spend less time licking your perceived wounds/defending your ego and more time actually attempting to engage in meaningful, Christ centered dialogue you might see that there really isn’t much to be upset about here. We all believe in the radical and transformative power of Christ and his kingdom message and should come together as members of the same body, not promote derision and divisive agendas over petty differences.

  • Ian

    True, but I don’t think he’d be celebrating on the dance floor doing the ‘hustle’ or the ‘chicken dance’ (regular or slo-mo via New Girl)

  • Frank

    Of course not. He would be there to show the the right path and if they were serious about following Jesus they would cancel the wedding and repent.

  • Jon

    The fact is that we don’t know what Jesus did or didn’t do regarding the question in this article, so there is no “record” to set straight. The women caught in adultery story, for instance, is a well known fabrication – added to the 4th gospel by a later person. When people attach Cosmic signifcance to the exact text of, and their view of, myths and legends, one can expect disagreements and rancor. And that’s what this article spawned.

    This article, and especially the acrimony shown in the replies above, is yet another example of why religion is so toxic to human relations, as if more were needed. At least in this day and age, we no longer burn people at the stake over it, or lead massive wars. Well, not as often, at least.

  • Frank


  • Justin

    Maybe the fact is that when Jesus comes around, people tend to respond in two ways and two ways only. They either are drawn to Him and repentive because of his Glory or they dispise and hate him because of their pride. Maybe it’s impossible to “flaunt your sin” in front of Christ while truly loving His presence.

  • Jonathan, I’m curious about why you listed Matthew 9.10-11, 13 rather than Matthew 9.10-13, especially when verse 12 (“But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.'”) seems to provide some level of insight into why Jesus was a friend of sinners.

    At the most, people who go to a physician do so because they know they’re sick (e.g., looking to be healed). At the least, the Great Physician calls the sick in order to accomplish something; a doctor who makes a house call without the “project” of making the sick person healthy isn’t much of a doctor at all.

    “A Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached” makes a great drinking buddy but a poor physician.

  • Ian

    Feel free to source your potential libel as I’m sure your information is a scholarly proof and been peer-edited by historians.

    On the contrary, without faith, including many I don’t agree with, the world would be a much more violent and destructive place and there is no philosophical basis/justification for any social justice/equality. Tim Keller has a great proof of that in ‘Reason for God’. France tried that briefly a while back, didn’t work so well.

  • Joe,
    What then do you do with the Woman at the Well?

    Jesus not only sat and talked with her, he:
    1) Walked through Samaria instead of around it. Unheard of in that culture.
    2) Speaks with a Samaritan. Unheard of in that culture.
    3) Speaks not just with any Samaritan, a Samaritan WOMAN. Unheard of in that culture.
    4) Speaks with a Samaritan woman who was, by religious standards of the day, living in “sin.” Unheard of in that culture.
    5) Asks the Samaritan woman to draw Him a drink of water. (Which, by religious standards, would have made Him ceremoniously unclean). Unheard of in that culture.

    He did all of this out of love for her. What’s our modern day Samaria? Maybe for some, it is the set of a porn movie. Maybe for some, it’s a dive bar. Maybe for some, it’s a gay wedding. Jesus defied every cultural and religious norm in the book, time and time again throughout Scripture. The question is, are we willing to do the same?

  • Ian

    Nicely put.

  • Tim Wasson

    I apologize, but I DO have to disagree with you on this. You are correct in that the woman at the well went at noon because she knew the other women wouldn’t be there; however, it was not to flaunt her sin. Women typically went to the well in morning or evening hours because of the heat, so the woman in the story was going there at noon to avoid the other women. She was either ashamed of her sin or she did not want to deal with the other women talking about/to her regarding her relationships. The Scriptures do not at any point indicate she was flaunting her sin. Secondly, the woman caught in adultery was not flaunting her sin by standing there naked while Jesus defended her. She was caught IN the act of adultery and the religious leaders grabbed her and threw her out into the street. She did not have a choice regarding her lack of clothing, therefore she was NOT flaunting. I agree with the general notion of Jesus having relationships with people who flaunted sin because “it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick,” however, we must be careful in reading into Scripture something that is not there.

  • Joe Carter

    The “woman at the well” is a good example of what I’m talking about. Jesus challenged her about her lifestyle and talked to her about his Kingdom. The entire point of the story is that Jesus not only convinced her to repent, but many other Samaritans as well.

  • Dave Farmer


    Very thought provoking post. I wouldn’t have really understood Joe’s point in his tweet, the way that Joe says he intended. ““You don’t think Jesus was turned off by the depravity of sinners? Didn’t he only welcome those seeking forgiveness?” By welcome, I was referring to welcome into the Kingdom.” I read it to refer simply to the sinners, and not those welcomed into the Kingdom, so I support your assessment.

    Curious about all the concern about those “flaunting their sins.” What does it mean to “flaunt ones’ sins?” Is it only a same-sex wedding? It appears that’s what gets everyone in this thread whipped up. Why doesn’t anyone worry about other ways to flaunt ones’ sin? For example, walking by a homeless person without speaking, offering help or basic kindness; not being truthful; being greedy at the expense of others; committing adultery or getting divorced (quite common in the church)…there’s a whole list of hidden sins that Christians commit on a daily basis. No one is without sin, so this focus on Jesus would not associated with those flaunting theirs sins seems unrealistic to me, since Jesus knew their sins even if they were hiding their sins. Hidden sins are no less sinful than “flaunted” sins, are they?

  • Nell Parker

    Where do you draw that line? I get the Nazi keg party deal-they were obliterating a race of people. But you would appear to be saying that attendance at a same sex wedding is akin to celebrating with Nazi war criminals. I bet that is a wrong assumption.

    We all flaunt sin at times-we are angry, impatient, self-absorbed and even fell pretty good about ourselves in the midst of it. It seems as if some flaunting is OK while other flaunting is not.

    So, is it a same sex marriage that crosses the line? And why that one?What about attending a party at which a well known serial adulterer will be present with his new girlfriend? Or an alcoholic who will imbibe in your presence?

  • FDR

    Let’s see. .Jonathan misrepresents a Calvinist point of view on Jesus and sinners.. hmmmm. so what else is new..

  • Ian

    Actually Samaria would probably be in a nicer place than the U.S. The closest equivalent for the U.S. to a ancient society would be the town of Corinth, except things are done here that would even make the Corinthians shutter.

  • Lou G.

    The thing that makes me so sad about how Joe and Kevin couch this issue is that they actually end up misrepresenting the Calvinist’s cherished Doctrines of Grace. It brings to mind how very wrong we get things when we go on the defense perhaps with good intent or perhaps for reasons of pride. But whatever the underlying motivation, too often we dig our heals in over things that most definitely require careful refining.

    Here are a few quotes from the comments section of Kevin’s blog that were spot-on:
    “Jesus embraced sinners who did NOT believe in him, in that he died for his chosen ones (John 10:11) when we were “ungodly” and “without strength” (Romans 5:6), because he set his love upon a chosen people (Ephesians 1:4-5) and purposed to give eternal life to every one of them (John 17:2). If Jesus was waiting for people to believe in him, he would have been waiting an awful long time, because the natural man lacks the ability to believe spiritual truth (I Cor 2:14). All God’s people were shut up in unbelief by nature (Rom 8:7) and they only ever love God because he first loved them. (I John 4:19) God’s acceptance of sinners is not based upon their acceptance of HIm, their acceptance of Him is based on God’s acceptance of them.
    That’s grace, and that’s how Jesus is a friend of sinners.”
    Which brings us to this question:
    “How do we do this sifting of who will be receptive (without divine foreknowledge)?”
    And does this mean that “we cannot follow Jesus’ model of mission as we pursue lost people?”

  • FDR

    Jonathan you said, “A Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached?”

    but don’t you think Jesus will also judge the un-repentant, regardless of how we describe our sin..

    Jesus said he came to seek and to save the lost.. no necessarily be everyones buddy..

  • Frank

    The distinction is celebrating sin or not. A SSM ceremony can only be seen as celebrating sin or “flaunting it.”

  • Ian

    Joe, you probably won’t get a response because they think you are engaging in reductio ad absurdam. However, you present a legitimate question that I think people don’t want to be pressed into answering because they seek a Christ of their invention.

  • Kevin, at the end of your article, you say:

    “What we see from the composite of these passages is that sinners were drawn to Jesus, that Jesus gladly spent time with sinners who were open to his teaching, that Jesus forgave repentant sinners, and that Jesus embraced sinners who believed in him.

    Jesus was a friend of sinners not because he winked at sin, ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted revelry with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners in that he came to save sinners and was very pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him.”

    One issue I have had to deal with as a result of growing up in conservative evangelicalism (in west Michigan) and spending time in ministry is the separatist mentality I was instilled with that crippled me from interacting with people who were not Christians on their own terms (i.e. at bars, shows, or other events that were not church related or without me in constant worry about how I could use it as a witnessing opportunity whether at that time or down the road). As a result of this, I have gone through a few confusing and humbling years learning how to drink, enjoy bar culture, the arts, and media, things that I could never have learned through the Christian culture I was involved in. These new activities have helped me to be with different kinds of people and enjoy friendships with them with no ulterior motive, and it has been a life-giving (and I would say, Christian) experience.

    Your stance seems to be that it’s okay to have friendship with unbelievers provided that we are mindful of their sin and hopefully call them (eventually) to repentance. Those sound like conditions to me, whereas I think the very act of befriending someone and being with them through messy and difficult parts of life is a type of gospel act. It is that sort of unconditional commitment to someone that tangibly shows the love of Jesus, whether that is manifested in words or not. I do not know you personally or attend your church (although I have heard some good things from friends in Lansing); however, I think what you wrote does tend to foster that separatist mentality I have experienced in conservative evangelicalism.

    Would you say that is a fair understanding of what you wrote?

  • Larry

    [Do we really think Jesus would be cool with hanging out in these locations since he’s a “friend of sinners”?]

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course he would.

    There are examples of him being with the Biblical equivalent of all three.

    This was a guy who hung around zealots (political inspired murderers, terrorists really), tax collectors (the tools of repression) and gentiles (people who were polytheists). He accepted a whore as part of his entourage (your porn film shoot equivalent).

  • Daniel

    Joe, anything you have to say about this matter is completely irrelevant, due to the fact that folks like you are only concerned with protecting the brand that is The “Gospel” Coalition. The fact that you’re jumping all over the author of this piece, all the while defending Driscoll, is the very height of hypocrisy.

  • Larry

    The dispute is really internal for Mr. Carter.

    Can you find excuses to ignore the demand of Jesus to “love thy neighbor” which would be socially acceptable and still considered following his word somehow?

    You want to find religious excuses for treating others badly in a religion where its main philosophical source tells you to do otherwise.

    Good luck with that.

  • Daniel

    Nice attempt at moving the goalposts Joe. But, you’re wrong. This is, plain and simple, all about you clowns from The “gospel” Coalition protecting your brand name at all costs. Just because you run TC (that’s right, I refuse to include the “G” in your name) with an authoritarian fist that would make Stalin green with envy, doesn’t mean you can control everyone else that way.

  • Daniel

    Outstanding comment Micah! You summed up precisely why the new version of Calvinism is so dangerous.

  • Doc Anthony

    Nothing wrong with saying that Jesus is the “friend of sinners.” (And thank God for it!)

    These days, some would take an extra step and suggest that Jesus is the “friend of sin” (or at least neutral on the topic), but that position is NO good, period.

  • Marcus Johnson

    This might be one of the times when you’re stretching the metaphor well past its elasticity. There are a lot of labels which Jesus uses for himself: Shepherd, Teacher, Physician, etc. Most Christians fall in love with these terms and forget that Jesus is only using that label to explain who he is, not to define who he is.

    For example, Jesus labeled himself the Messiah, the anointed one. There were many, many people who claimed that they were Messiahs and, like Jesus, they were crucified for sedition by the Roman Empire. Jesus was like a “messiah” in the same way that these other revolutionary contenders were. He preached about the present kingdom of God, as did many messiahs. He affirmed a new social order, in which the least would be first and the first would be last, which was perceived as a dangerous threat by the Jewish leadership and Roman authorities. He had a small close-knit posse, and drew crowds of interested people that fell away when he was executed. However, he was not like all the other messiahs that came before him, because…well, you know, the whole being God thing, and a dozen other reasons you could probably pick up from reading the lyrics of a Chris Tomlin album. The term “messiah,” then, explained who Jesus was, but did not define him.

    Jesus is like a physician, in that he cures the spiritual anguish caused by sin (and we really need to start defining “sin” in its broader sense, not just the individual acts on which we like to obsess). But Jesus does not merely provide the cure for sin; he, literally, is the cure for sin. That’s just one of many differences between a real physician and Jesus. So Jesus is like a physician, but he is not a physician. Josh, that term is not a comprehensive label for Jesus, so to claim, “Well, a physician does this and that and the other, so that’s what Jesus is like” presumes way too much than what the immediate context of the passage permits.

  • Daniel

    Like so many toda though, you seem to want to say that the hospital isn’t open to people with certain types of sickness.

  • Mary Keomuongchanh

    For me, this conversation is no longer about what Jesus would or would not do, but it’s about the way Christians speak to each other. The snarky comments, the condescending attitude when we have different theological views on any given subject. Why in the world would anyone listen to us when we won’t listen to each other.

  • He hung out with religious leaders who were unabashedly prideful. I think this is “flaunting sin” to a much greater degree than a black mass would be.

  • Daniel

    Save it. The poor persecuted “calvinists.” Here’s one for you: Members of The Coalition can’t stand to be called out. So what else is new???

  • Keith Pavlischek

    JOE CARTER SAID: “Yeah, I think he did. But let’s see if people really agree that Jesus would hang around when people were “flaunting their sin” and not call them to repentance:

    1) A Nazi keg party celebrating their latest massacre.
    2) A set where a porn film is being shot.
    3) A black mass held by Satanists.

    Do we really think Jesus would be cool with hanging out in these locations since he’s a “friend of sinners”?”

    Mr. Merritt, I know that you are only a columnist and not a biblical scholar or a philosopher, or a theologian. But, without resorting to a phone call or an email to your favorite biblical scholars, theologians and philosophers, could you try responding to Mr. Carter’s question. It is rather straight-forward.
    We all know that YOU believe that Christian artists, photographers, bakers, florists and so forth SHOULD participate in “gay weddings”–you have already made that perfectly clear–and the reason you gave was because, in short, that is what Jesus would do, since he hung around with sinners. So don’t you think it is just a little disingenuous for you to say that you aren’t implying anything along those lines?

    THAT is why you should answer and not dodge the question asked by Mr. Carter. The question is apt and relevat. It gets at the underlying principle (eg., Jesus hung out with sinners so he would want his disciples who are artists, photographers, bakers etc to hang out at Gay weddings too.)

    BTW–in the philosophy biz these are called counterfactuals and they help illuminate the broader principle at stake in the discussion. So, go ahead give it a go. Answer the question.

  • Do I want to say that? Interesting.

  • Marcus Johnson

    Actually, to question whether or not Jesus would attend a same-sex wedding is as preposterously stupid as it would be to ask if he would have a Twitter account, or if he would let his children get vaccinated, or if he would own a car. The concept of homosexuality as a sexual orientation identity would not emerge until centuries after Jesus’ time on earth. Jesus did what he did in that specific historical and cultural context, so the rhetorical acrobatics and stretching that is done to examine what an itinerant 1st century Palestinian Jew would do in the 21st century is ridiculous. It is also unnecessary, as Jesus, in his earthly ministry, never really established a moral code that was radically different than anything ever preached in any contemporary culture. The story of the Bible is not one of establishing right behavior; it is of mending a broken relationship, so maybe we’re a little off focus here?

    And, just in case anyone is wondering, I’m claiming that this is an asinine conversation for any Christian–progressive, conservative, or otherwise–to have.

  • Hannah

    Exactly! It’s like, thank you for making my Christianity that much more complicated by asking me to read minds, trying to figure out who’s “open to the gospel” before I interact with them for any extended period of time.
    While Jesus *could* read minds, last I checked, I can’t.
    As you say, it seems most people are not open to attempts at conversion, which kinda shuts down this method of interaction (“befriend only those non-believers open to the gospel”) from the get-go. If anything, this will be a great aid to my introversion. When asked why I don’t have any friends, I can say “People just aren’t open to the gospel. What are ya gonna do, ya know?” Now I can go from just looking like a loner to a full-blown really-righteous ivory-tower spiritual hero.

  • Marcus Johnson

    I’m sure it’s being written somewhere else in this comments section, but there is nowhere in the Gospels in which the concept of “flaunting one’s sin” is mentioned, much less defined. We seem to have made that up, and continue to control that definition to cover what we want it to cover. So, if a person admits that he has homosexual tendencies, then he is not “flaunting his sin,” but if he claims to be gay, that’s “flaunting his sin.” A same-sex marriage is “flaunting one’s sin,” but a heterosexual couple who get married too young, or just for the kids, or for financial reasons, will never be confronted at their wedding by people who claim they are “flaunting their sin.”

    Seriously, if Scripture never makes a distinction between “sin” and “flaunting one’s sin,” what gives us the assumption that it’s okay for us to do it, then? Other than the fact that we can make up whatever we want to?

  • I understand the limits of metaphor. Still, I think that “Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinner to heal them of their sins” is analogous to “a doctor treats patients to heal them of their sickness.” Seems that’s well within the bounds of metaphor and an honest reading of the text.

  • Frank

    Isaiah 3:9

    The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.

  • Shawnie5

    Jesus did not avoid associating with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. He conversed with them quite frequently (even at the age o 12!) and ate at their houses when invited.

    The reason why Jesus said that the prostitutes and the tax collectors would go into heaven ahead of the Pharisees was that they recognized their own sinfulness and their need to be rescued. The Pharisees did not. They could not reach for the cure without first realizing they were sick.

  • Marcus Johnson

    If you understand the limits of metaphor, then I would suggest that maybe you don’t respect those limitations that much, because you’re still stretching the physician metaphor past its due tensility.

    Take your last comment, for example: The phrase “to heal them of their sins” never appeared in that chapter. In Matthew 9, Jesus never said that, “I eat with tax collectors and sinners because, as the Great Physician, I will heal them of their sinful behavior.” For starters, the work that God does to change lives is a little more complex than that. Perhaps more importantly, Jesus spoke of the “righteous” and the “sinners” not to distinguish between good people and bad people, but to distinguish between the Jewish aristocracy and priesthood (who were not even close to resembling what we call would call “righteous”), and the “sinners” (the detestable “bottom feeders,” the poor, the unclean, the illiterate, the tax collectors). Jesus was saying, “I’m not here for you folks who think you’re so perfect; my mission is with these degenerates who you step over on your way to the temple.” That message would get repeated over and over again, in different ways, throughout his ministry, and it’s the reason why the Jewish aristocracy wanted him dead just as much as the Romans did.

  • Shawnie5

    That’s pretty much chapter one of John’s gospel in a nutshell.

  • Nathan Johnson

    I wonder if this discussion, including the article, could have been done in private rather than in a public setting. When we, as Christians, debate our Christian brothers in a public setting without ensuring that we are representing their views with integrity and honesty, we do more harm than good to both readers and participants alike. Jonathan, I understand why you wanted to use this discussion as a springboard for your views in hopes of inspiring and instructing your readers, but you’ve got to ensure that you are first representing the discussion as accurately as possible. Otherwise, you just look like you’re more concerned with keeping traffic on your articles rather than providing anything helpful or edifying. Blessings.

  • Daniel

    Yes, that’s how I read it. If that’s wrong, then try responding. Unfortunately for you, I know the game you and your Calvinistic ilk love to play, hiding behind semantics and passive-aggressive posts. It’s a worn out, weak, tired approach.

  • Dave Farmer

    So getting divorced and remarried is not flaunting sin? Seems like a double standard especially when Christians readily divorce a remarry in churches.

  • Shawnie5

    “Jesus spoke of the “righteous” and the “sinners” not to distinguish between good people and bad people, but to distinguish between the Jewish aristocracy and priesthood and the “sinners.”

    More than that. He was distinguishing the righteous (of whom there were none–Mark 10:18) from the sinners (which included everyone–the conventionally “sinful” AND the Pharisees, as well as everyone in between). In being the “friend of sinners” Jesus was also the friend of the Pharisees. They just didn’t realize it.

  • Phil

    Actually Marcus, homosexuality was quite common in the Roman empire. It isn’t something new, but I get what you’re saying.

  • Two sincere questions, Marcus:

    1) What is Jesus’ “mission with these degenerates”?

    2) What is the relationship between the Pharisee’s question about “eating with tax collectors and sinners” and Jesus’ response that “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”?

  • A response, free from worn-out, weak, tired semantics and passive-aggressive games:

    1) I have never said, nor do I want to say, nor has anything I posted here implied, that the hospital isn’t open to people with certain types of sickness. (Metaphorically speaking.)
    2) I’m not a Calvinist. (Yet.)

  • Frank

    Not if they have asked for forgiveness for the divorce.

    No double standard at all. A totally different scenario.

  • Can I just say that there are quite a few Calvinists out there that these folks don’t speak for? It’s very frustrating seeing so much of this stuff put out there as those “this is what Calvinists are like.” It’s just not so.

  • Jon

    @ Ian-

    On one hand, no reference should be needed for something so well known. Asking for a reference for fact that the pericope adulterae is very likely forgery is like asking for a chemist reference that hydrogen is flammable. On the other hand, while that’s well known among clergy, they keep that dutifully hidden from their flocks, so if you are one who has simply accepted what they have told you, without doing your own research, I could see how you could be unaware of it. So here is a reference in a peer reviewed journal, from Keith, Currents in Biblical Research, vol 6:

    The rest of your post seems to be the tired old baseless attack on atheists as having no basis for morality and equality. Any review of history shows how false that accusation is, though it may provide comfort to believers. Any constructive dialog among people of various faiths and none will require Christians to stop accusing non-Christians as being immoral. I hope they can do that.

  • Frank

    Gay committed relationships and marriages existed in Ancient Rome and China and on the African Continent.

    So the Jews, Jesus and Paul knew exactly what they spoke of.

  • To say that Jesus was selective with whom He shared his life, mission and message is totally antithetical to the purpose of Christ’s departure from Heaven and earthly existence.

    If He had come to present a selective salvation, God would have created a different manner of sanctification, justification and salvation. Instead, we see that Jesus decided to break all of the norms and religious expectations to be with the sinners, with the uneducated, with the socially unacceptable – of which He was a part (“what good can come out of Nazareth,” remember???). While, at the same time, he was capable enough to be intelligent and socially acceptable enough (increased in stature and favor with God and man) to spend time in the dark of the night with a ruler like Nicodemus.

    Scripture is not shy about portraying Jesus as one who associates with the undesirables (fishermen from Galilee, tax collectors, the two women listed in your blog post, among many others), which means that anyone who tries to filter the scriptural presentation of the friend of sinners as being a selective friend of sinners has just tried to edit God’s word – adding and taking away more than jots or tittles.


    If Jesus were with us in this discussion He would give us the same response as He gave His disciples when they were arguing who was best among them….Get behind me satan! If we are not to associate ourselves with sinners and their dirt how will we ever show them a better path. Nobody listens to the guy on the corner with a bullhorn, they listen to the person who is at their side helping them out of the mess they found themselves in.

  • Scott

    Why would Jesus tell these people “go and sin no more”?

  • Nathan

    When we, as Christians, debate our Christian brothers in a public setting without ensuring that we are representing their views with integrity and honesty, we do more harm than good to both readers and participants alike. Jonathan, I understand why you wanted to use this discussion as a springboard for your views in hopes of inspiring and instructing your readers, but you’ve got to ensure that you are first representing the discussion as accurately as possible. Otherwise, you just look like you’re more concerned with keeping traffic on your articles rather than providing anything helpful or edifying. Blessings.

  • Daniel

    Mark, I feel for you. I really do. Sadly, the antics of people like Taylor, Carter, DeYoung have cast all of you in a bad light.

    Good reminder though that like many cases, the actions of an extremely vocal and misguided minority shouldn’t stain the group as a whole.

    Point taken.

  • Hannah

    I think this is just an example of the Calvinist paradigm showing itself. Why *would* the Calvinist Jesus bother to spend time with people predestined for hell anyway? It’s not like there’s anything the Calvinist Jesus can do to save them. He’ll just spend time with the people who are essentially already in the club to begin with. It’d be a waste of time to do otherwise.

  • Joe Carter


    I don’t expect people to read all the comments so let me clarify again:

    Neither Kevin nor I hold the view that Jonathan claims we do. If you want to know what I’ve really said about the subject read this ( Jonathan has misrepresented our views. We asked him to correct it but he has refused to do so.

    You might get the impression that the sources Jonathan talked to disagree with what I wrote. They don’t. They never heard what I wrote for Jonathan never mentioned me by name (I asked them and they confirmed this). He merely presented a strawman version of what I believe, asked them to respond, and then presented it as if they were responding to something I had said or written.

    This entire article calls Jonathan’s credibility as a journalist into question.

    Also, you seemed to be completely confused about what Calvinists believe.

  • Which whore would you be referring to Larry? Would it be Mary Magdalene? Just curious, seeing how there is no proof of that.

  • Marcus Johnson

    Josh, two sincere answers follow:

    1) Jesus’ overall mission was to usher in the kingdom of God (hence the oft repeated declaration, “The Kingdom of God is here/among you/near.” Of course, that Kingdom could include everyone, but the social order in which Jesus lived was as corrupt as the Jim Crow South in the early 20th century, in which people who weren’t “in” would never feel a sense their God-given sense of self-worth. What the people of Judea needed was a radical shift in social justice, in which “the last would become first, and the first last.” That was Jesus’ mission.

    2) I would go back to that phrase, “the last shall be first, and the first last.” In order to make this social-spiritual reversal happen, the people at the bottom needed to be brought up to the top. They would never be capable of doing this in their current condition; they needed to be “cleansed,” “purified,” “healed,”–which is why Jesus spoke of himself, in that specific instance, as a “physician.”

    Keep in mind that for someone to be “healed,” they would have to go to the priests for inspection and approval. A physician could heal you, a miracle worker could cure you, but the final authority for determining who was whole was still the Temple priesthood. By dubbing himself as a “physician,” Jesus was saying, “They don’t need you, or the Temple priests, or the conventional social order, to become healed. They just need me.” A comment like that would have pissed off the Pharisees (which was most likely Jesus’ intent) because it rendered their social status irrelevant as a prerequisite for entry into the Kingdom of God.

  • Daniel

    blah, blah, blah……just more semantics and word twisting. This is the #1 play in The Coalition playbook. The only thing you left out Joe is telling Hannah that it depends upon what the meaning of “is” is.

    Again, given the full-fledged endorsement of Driscoll, it’s the very height of hypocrisy for someone from The Coalition to question anyone else on their journalistic standards.
    Lastly, it seems to me that Hannah is quote clear on Calvinism and the questions that naturally arise once one adopts that system.

  • Joe Carter


    Will you be backing up your assertion with actual evidence, or is this just a drive-by slander?

    Also, can you show me the “full-fledged endorsement of Driscoll”? That must come as quite a surprise to all the bloggers at TGC who have criticized him recently. But I assume you don’t actual read TGC so you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re just making stuff up since that’s apparently okay for Christians to do now.

    Finally, if Hannah (and you) are right about Calvinism, then why do Calvinist support evangelism?

  • Lukas Targosz

    Love this article, Jonathan. As someone who lives in the Czech Republic with only 0,3% evangelical Christians, I spent almost all my time with atheists and agnostics who “flaunted their sin” (as Joe Carter would say) and I do this with grace and love since this is my mission field. It certainly helps me not to be the Calvinist, though 🙂

  • Brady

    All this talk about Jesus not hanging out with people that “flaunt their sin.”

    Does this mean that if I’m good hiding my sins from the public eye I’ll be worthy of Jesus spending time with me? Or the man (whose family was obliterated by Nazis that just had a raging kegger) who is so MAD at God for letting this happen that he wants nothing to do with Jesus? Will Jesus not be present in their circumstances?

    Or the Pharisees that publicly flaunted their disdain toward Jesus, trying to trap him and kill him. Why then does Jesus dine with them?

    I find it hard to believe that Jesus would go to such great lengths to be with these people and sit and eat with them…but would then ask his followers to not relate with people that may not be interested in a relationship with him.

  • Darcy Knight

    Nope. Not even close. I’m in the middle of writing on that passage, and Jesus did not EVEN condemn her. Didn’t say “go and sin no more.” He wasn’t shy about sin, so he wasn’t condemning her. You’re reading things into it, maybe sermons you’ve heard over the years. But don’t indulge in eisegesis on this passage.

  • Joe Carter

    You seem to have missed Jonathan’s point, Lukas. You say it’s your “mission field” which implies that you think they should seek repentance. But that is not what Jonathan is talking about.

    Based on his view, Jesus would be fine serving lemonade at a lynching since his “social habits” allowed him to hang around sinners as they were openly engaging in sin. That’s a “Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached.” Of course that’s not the Jesus of the Gospels, but at least it’s a Jesus that our urban friends won’t be offended by.

  • Lukas Targosz

    Joe, you seem to get “better and better” scenarios where Jesus would be (from Nazi’s meeting to a lynching) according to Jonathan 🙂

    Mission field doesn’t mean to me that all I am trying to say to my “sin flaunting” friends is to call them to repentance. Actually, quite opposite. In fact, we had plenty of American missionaries arriving here with this approach and all they got was closing many to any faith discovery whatsoever. So, we have quite different approach. Here is what I try to do:

    I am building the relationship with them that may ultimately results in their desire to ask questions and engage in conversation. But it may not. However, I am still their friend in both cases and I am happy for it. Some of them are deeply in sin and I am not trying to correct them. Why would I? Yet, they may end up with transformed life. From biblical example: Jesus ask Matthew to follow him, but then he follows Matthew to his house. There is not a hint in the story that life change (repentance) would be required, yet it did happen as a result of being with Jesus.

    So, yes, I fully believe in “Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached.” And yet, in the same time, this fellowship has transforming power through the Holy Spirit.

  • Joe Carter

    Joe, you seem to get “better and better” scenarios where Jesus would be (from Nazi’s meeting to a lynching) according to Jonathan

    But isn’t that what you are saying too? You say you” fully believe in Christ who offers fellowship to all indiscriminately without condition, no strings attached.” So Jesus would offer his fellowship to those involved in a Nazi keg party, a porn film shoot, and a lynching? What about hanging out with Romans rolling dice for the robe of someone who is being crucified? Would Jesus do that too?

    I would be very surprised if that is what you really believe. I think you are taking the point I agree with (we can can and should be involved in the lives of unbelievers) and stretching it to an absurd and unbiblical conclusion (Jesus would hang out with anyone, no strings attached).

  • Daniel

    Thanks Joe, for proving my point. Glad to see you sticking to the playbook. Joe, if I said that 2 + 2 = 4, would you demand for me to back up my assertion?

    So, are you saying that you, along with the majority of folks at TC haven’t defended Driscoll? Don’t make me dig up all the links from shortly after ER2. Don’t even try playing that game with me Joe. I realize that all of your lemming readers at TC swallow hook, line and sinker all that you tell them to, but here where folks are free to actually think, that nonsense doesn’t fly. Despite your attempt at moving the goalposts, you know full well that TC in fact has always fully endorsed Driscoll.

    LOL regarding your comment about things that are apparently okay for Christians to do. Pot, meet kettle.

  • Hannah

    Calvinists support evangelism because they haven’t accepted or realized the logical endpoint of their own paradigm/philosophy/theology (i.e., no matter what they do personally, everyone is either going to hell or heaven and it’s predestined and they can’t change it one way or the other). They are talk Calvinism, but walk Arminianism, essentially. It’s like when complementarians talk about being complementarian yet effectively have egalitarian marriages.
    I guess all of our beliefs as they exist in our head and how we practice them tend to be in conflict. Which is why what you do is more important than what you say and what you truly believe is what you do, not what you say. Because if Calvinists are going out and evangelizing, then I can’t but conclude they don’t truly believe in predestination. Or, maybe, they just like being involved in something despite them knowing that they don’t actually have any effect on the outcome. I guess that’s possible. We all need a hobby.

  • Brady

    I don’t think Jesus would offer his fellowship AT a porn shoot, a Nazi keg party, or a lynching.

    But would he offer his fellowship to those involved? Yes.

    Yet, now that I think about it, he DID attend a stoning, and stood between the executioners and the accused- and he called them to a better way of living. And they left the accused alone.

  • Daniel

    Joe, very nice, isn’t it, that Jonathan allows you to continue to rail against him here in the comments. Refreshing that he’s not afraid of dissenting views, unlike another site that I know of.

  • Lukas Targosz

    Fully agree with Brady’s comment. That is exactly an example of transforming presence of Jesus. Thanks!

  • Todd Benkert

    You all are missing the word “when” in Joe’s argument. He is not arguing that Jesus would not hang around such sinners, but that he would not do so “when” they were engaged in flaunting their sin. So Jesus might indeed hand out with porn stars, but he would certainly not attend a porn shoot to do so.

  • Adam O

    So the big point of dissension seems to be over when Jesus will hang out with sinners, “in the midst of their sin” or “when they are flaunting their sin” have been mentioned.
    I think this calls on us to draw arbitrary lines of what “flaunting” means. For a Biblical example: if Jesus hangs out with a tax collector “party” is that not in the midst of the tax collectors sin flaunting (some of his “main” sins might be greed, selfishness, prideful flaunting of his wealth by throwing big parties, etc.)?
    Is Jesus giving approval to the greed and selfishness that resulted in this party just by attending? I think we’d almost all agree that he’s not. Sometimes they end up repenting of their greed like ole Zach, but his example seems to be special perhaps because it’s more of an exception.
    I know this line of thought/argument has really come to a head because so many Christians are faced with this predicament of having gay friends get married (praise the Lord some Christians actually have gay friends!). But I think the example of Jesus does not imply that attendance at a social event is equal to unconditional approval. A social gathering like a wedding is a much closer example to the kinds of places that Jesus came and went to in Scripture, so on that front we might be able to have a fruitful discussion.
    But if we argue ad absurdam about Jesus attending a black mass or a nazi gathering (which would be super awkward since Jesus was, well Jesus, for the first example, and a Jew for the second example), we have reduced this to some kind of pie in the sky trolling discussion on par with asking if God can make a rock that he can’t lift. Should Christians exercise wisdom in where they go, I don’t think Jesus or very many others would disagree with this. But do Christians historically tend to over-exercise this “wisdom” in favor of separatism from the world, we would be wise to acknowledge that our tendency falls that direction.
    I don’t read everything JM or JC write so maybe they have addressed more practical questions about Christian life elseware, like the questions of attending friends’ gay wedding or attending a bar or going to a concert. But I would be pleased to see the direction more more in those directions so we could talk about real life rather than some extreme theoretical examples.

  • Love this post in that it highlights the worry many have within the Christian community that we can take the grace message too far. But fact is grace is given indiscriminately, otherwise it’s not grace. Fact is we become a victim of grace and we see in the bible people receiving grace that we wouldn’t dare think deserved it. But we also see that once they received grace, transformation took place. Grace shows up and then “go and sin no more”..

  • Lou G.

    Please, Joe (and Kevin and Justin). Guys. Just put the shovel down. This defensiveness and digging in of the heals to defend something that is counter to the Calvinistic Doctrines of Grace is not becoming. I feel embarrassed and ashamed as a Calvinist to think of how TGC’s authors have represented our theology of missions and evangelism.

  • Larry

    The jury is out on that. There is plenty of proof. Just none that your average apologist or fundamentalist is willing to discuss.

    Still hanging out with vile idolators, fallen women, terrorists, and “narcs” put Jesus into some very shady company.

  • Todd Benkert

    I see no wound-licking here. I see Merritt making a straw man argument and Carter calling him on it.

  • Jonathan,

    Good recap. When this debacle happened, I couldn’t believe what DeYoung wrote. Someone at his church needs to sit him down and share the Gospel with him. It’s kind of sad.

    The other thing I’m really surprised that both Kevin and Carter missed is that a “sinner” was a social designation for marginalized outcasts who did not appease the Jewish social and religious demands. Jesus was identified as a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11:19) and a “sinner” (John 9:16-31). When someone was identified as a “sinner”, it wasn’t primarily a description of their moral or ethical status – but rather their religious status with the Jewish law. The way Carter and DeYoung use it does not fit with how it is predominantly presented in the Gospels.

    Being a “sinner” included anyone who was a Gentile as well as Jews who didn’t practice the law in a way that pleased the religious elite. It had social, economic and religious implications and, as a title, was used to demarcate those who weren’t considered part of the Covenant with Israel’s God based upon Sabbath observance, dietary regulations, circumcision, etc.

    At the end of the day, DeYoung’s and Carter’s use of the Text by taking it out of context is one of the most problematic, not just their theology. Either way. It happens a lot, I’m just surprised that they are doing this so unabashedly.

  • “…[Jesus] associates with all people with no strings attached.” – Darrell Bock

    Joe Carter: “an absurd and unbiblical conclusion” = “Jesus would hang out with anyone, no strings attached.”

  • Adam Baker

    Joe, there’s no element of challenge to what Christ says to the Samaritan woman at the well.

    She doesn’t run to tell the townsfolk to “come and see the man who called me out on the sin that I’ve been flaunting” – rather, she described him as “a man who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:28). Jesus simply identifies the woman’s spoken truth (“I have no husband”) as truth indeed (4:18), noting her five former husbands and one current male liaison.

    To read Jesus as challenging this woman’s lifestyle and choices in this passage is eisegetical. What this passage does in fact show us is a Messiah who walks through the religiosity of social and Levitical norms to engage in interaction (e.g. a drink and conversation) with a woman no other self-respecting religious Jew would have even gone near. He sees her for who she is, tells her who she is, and identifies himself as the giver of eternally thirst-quenching, life-giving water and the Messiah whom she’d hoped would explain everything to her and her people. That’s it. No confrontation of sin, no calling her to repentance.

    Jesus doesn’t spend time with her because she’s a sinner who has chosen to follow him. He approaches her as she is, and she runs and brings her whole world to meet him because he has seen her, described her insightfully, and asked her for a drink.

  • This discussion is quite interesting for me. For the past two weeks, on my podcast, I’ve been discussing that Christians should be following Jesus’ example in building relationships with Christ, God, our family, our church family, our community (affinity, location) and the rest of the world. This week, I’ve been talking about evangelism. My contention is that we speak of evangelism while we really mean “soul winning.” The act of soul winning, I contend, is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit (sounds quite Calvinistic doesn’t it?), but our job is to simply “tell the good news” (which is what the Greek word for evangelist actually means).

    However, it seems that most Calvinists I know are convinced that even the act of evangelism is not ours, but God’s. If that were true, then, why would Jesus commission us to “go into ALL (my emphasis) the world.” Why would Paul teach Timothy that “Jesus came so that ALL (my emphasis) might be saved.” Why would Jesus teach Nicodemus that “For God so loved THE WORLD, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish…” (my emphasis). Their contention that we are not involved in the process at all, and that the Holy Trinity were selective in the recipients of grace by predetermination and not by foreknowledge is not congruent with these three passages. And, as innertantists (sp?), if something is incongruent with ONE verse, it must be incongruent with ALL scripture, for God’s word is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

  • Bryan

    Bottom line is Jesus hung out with tax collectors, Jews who collaborated with their heathen imperial oppressors. In that context that’s a Nazi keg party and Black Mass all rolled up into one. Am glad this season of hyper-Calvinism seems to have reached its apex and is on the downhill slide thanks to ridiculously absurd conclusions like the one Merritt called out.

  • 1) I don’t know if Merritt is being intentionally or unintentionally provocative but this discussion has literally nothing to do with Calvinism.

    2) DeYoung significantly overstates himself in his conclusion. Jesus certainly spent time with sinners who were not “on their way to putting their faith in him.”

    3) Carter is simply making the point that there are some activities and contexts that Jesus and by implication his followers would not have participated in. Frankly, I suspect Merritt agrees with that point – although he would differ on what those activities/contexts are. And if I’m right, using “Calvinism” pejoratively and being snarky about East Lansing, MI or Ashburn, VA is needlessly divisive.

  • When people threw dice for his clothing? Hang out? Get it? #seewhatididthere #toosoon?

  • Sarah

    Maybe this is just a case of CNN-esque attention grabbing headlines, but it seems needlessly extreme to equate “sinners” with “strip clubs.” To answer the question of your article’s title, no, no one was insinuating that you should patronize a strip club. Sorry.

  • Robert Fuller

    No strings attached. But what about when. . . . ? No strings attached. I know, but what if. . . ? No strings attached. Yeah, but Jesus wouldn’t hang with. . . No strings attached. Jesus didn’t seek me out because I was following him, He hung with me because I wasn’t. Thank you for the article, it is much appreciated.

  • Sarah

    “To deny friendship is unlove.” – Madeleine L’Engle

    I agree with this response so much. Yes. These two things are not contradictory.

  • Sarah

    Why on earth do you care so much about what she views as great? She can read and like what she chooses. You have made your point MANY times in the comments. I can assure you that she did not get to this point without reading your comments as well.

  • Sarah

    Or he might be there to turn the water into wine. I hear He does that at weddings.

  • Sarah

    IDK, people know I’m not perfect that that I disagree/sass people, and they still listen to me because they don’t expect me to be perfect or shy away from a good internet fight.

  • Sarah

    Twitter is public. Debates can be helpful. People like reading and thinking. I don’t think you get to determine what is/isn’t “helpful” to all.

  • Sarah

    Because he didn’t expect them to sin no more PRIOR TO their interaction.

  • Sarah

    How about you just summarize your view rather than post a (nonworking) link? A lot of people won’t read an entire article (or click on any Coalition website) but will read comments here. Represent yourself correctly HERE if this needs corrected.

  • I’m surprised Jonathan didn’t ask Carter if he still beats his wife. This whole piece is absolutely junior-high level. And Carter clarified his views in an article that this ‘journalist’ would have mentioned if he had any shred of intellectual honesty.

    I’m sure Jonathan has no problem allowing ‘dissenting’ views with so many willing to carry his water. He doesn’t have to enter a single keystroke. He can simply malign a person’s character without acknowledging the clarification and be on his merry. He has his hits and a book to sell. What’s he care?

    (And it’s not a ‘dissenting view’ it is holding someone accountable for intellectual dishonesty, not argument for argument’s sake. But then again the junior-high crowd may be beneath that.)

  • Good words, Jonathan. It seems to me that in Jesus we are trying to comprehend a love for humanity as a whole that is greater than anything we have ever experienced. We don’t know how to apprehend it, so we foist on to Jesus our own fears of doctrinal compromise, or vulnerability to sin temptations that would cause us to be more seperatist that Jesus ever was- or is. Jesus’s love is more secure than ours: and thank God that it is!

  • Joe Carter

    If anyone is interested, I’ve written an explanation for why I think the theology behind Jonathan’s article is faulty and leads to universalism: How a Too-Friendly Jesus Can Lead to Universalism (

  • Davis

    We miss the point when we try to dichotomize the love and wisdom of Christ. We are to be both “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”, but ultimately we will be “like sheep amongst wolves” (Matt 10:16), which is an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. Jesus confronted sin, and Jesus associated with sinners, and I don’t think we gain anything when we flatten out His work or His words to bolster our theological positions. Rather, we should read His story over and over and over again, so we may also learn to love, rebuke, teach, and live as He did.

    I don’t like smokescreens. I think at the heart of this debate is “would Jesus attend a gay wedding?” Depends on the circumstances, but my inclination is to say that yes, he would. May God give wisdom to each of you if you are ever encountered with such a situation… Now, if you refuse to work for a certain gay wedding, I think that’s just bigotry. If Jesus expected His followers to carry a Roman soldier’s equipment (a Roman soldier who may have killed your family members, who oppresses you and looks down on you) not only one, but two miles, how on earth can we escape Christ’s call to serve even our enemies by refusing service to gay people? May we learn to love like Christ loved, and to actually follow His words, to live like a true community in remembrance of Him, and defeat evil not with slightly-less evil, but with Good.

  • Jonathan R

    Its interesting to read in these comments the wide range of criticism of Calvinism, The Gospel Coalition and even the endorsing of Mark Driscoll (?). Much of these criticisms seem to me to be unwarranted and simply a opportunity to vent misguided frustration. Not to sound rude, but I’m not even sure why Jonathan Merritt even mentioned Joe being a Calvinist other than to somehow link his complainant with the teachings of Calvinism without actually say so.

    Obviously the Bible shows Christ was not afraid to engage the culture of His day by rubbing shoulders with less than savory folks and loved on sinners like us. However, to make the large leap that therefore Christ would attend a Nazi keg party simply to chill out “with no strings attached” and enjoy a good old cross burning is simply ridicules. To say otherwise, is in my opinion, to not truly grasp the tension and scope of a topic like this.

    Lets not forget passages like…
    Psalm 1:1 “ Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;”
    Psalm 26:4-5 “I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.”

    At the very minimum these passages give some kind of caution on how Christians ought to interact with a unbelieving world. Whatever ones take on these passages (and I’m sure many more) might be, lets at least be honest and admit that the issue might not be as clear cut as Jonathan Merritt seems to think.

  • STreadaway

    Here ya go Joe…
    In Mark 2 there is an irrefutable distinction between Jesus and his disciples/follwers… and the sinners he was hanging out with. As you well know… tax collectors were the most detestable of sinners in first century Jerusalem. Jews that worked for Rome and made their living by stealing from their Jewish brothers and sisters under protection of the law left them tagged (as Eugene Patterson so eloquently puts it) as riffraff and crooks. Here’s Jesus inviting Levi to be a disciple while he is at his tax collection booth “flaunting” his sin. Sure… Levi is converted (at some point… we’re not really sure) but there is no indication of the conversion of these sinful men as he dined in the den of thieves.
    Now resist the temptation to refer to verse 15’s statement that there were many that followed him as an indicator that these sinners and tax collectors were followers of Jesus. For three reasons… first there’s a distinction in the difference of the disciple and the sinner in this passage… second, we see how the whole story unfolds and it is clear by the end who Jesus’ converted follwers were… and third and certainly most importantly… Matthew (Levi) himself gives an account from his own words of what happened that night in Matthew 9, He explains that he threw a big banquet and that “many tax collectors and sinners” came to as well.

    But for me… and apparently for different reasons than you may presume… I love Marks observation of Jesus reclining with them. The Bible only mentions Jesus reclining during moments he is with those he loves most… Lazarus, his disciples, and here… sinners. They were cozy and reclining…. together. The righteous son of God, the very errant but attempting followers, and the flaunting sinners he was being a friend to. Thank God He loved us before we loved Him, right!

    Again… this is simply irrefutable as it’s all laid out below in scripture.

    Great article Jonathan!
    Mark 2:13-17
    15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  • Brandon

    The articles on both sides as well as the comments resulting from them are downright disheartening.

  • G. Murray

    Universalism as in Jesus shed his blood for the universe he created and every living being he created. If the people encountered were not flaunting their sins how did anyone know they were sinners? St. Paul wrote:
    8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    Does your bible have a correction which says while we were yet sinners, but repentant.

    I though evangelicals at least knew the bible. Do you only take the four mentions of homosexuality literally? Shame on you, everyone is a child of god. Even the absurd examples you gave. By the way, you forgot would Jesus have been with the Manson family as they murdered Sharon Tate? He certainly would have visited them in prison.

    The point you miss is that Jesus went where he was invited, because God calls all his children, but he only enters those who consent because he respects our freedom. Jesus would probably not be invited to any of your examples, but if he were he would go and he would minister to them.

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  • Anne

    Joe, you seem to want to categorize sinners as “those who flaunt their sin” and “those who don’t”. For Jesus, such categories do NOT exist. He is the LIGHT of the world and every sinful deed, wether public or private, is visible to him and therefore ALL sinners are known to him.

    We need to remember that Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 “followers” yet we have no assurance that he ever repented. And even though Jesus knew of the evil intent in Judas’ heart, he still invited him to the Table where he shared bread with him and demonstrated his love for him. I think this is the point that you seem to completely overlook in your arguments here.

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  • Tony Metz

    Its fine to disagree with gay marriage…but to use a gay wedding as an example of “flaunting sin” is ignorant and just nasty. I think you need to spend a little more time hanging out with those you consider sinners (as Jesus did)…maybe you’d understand them a little better.

  • Joe_S

    Is there an elephant in the room? That one writer is gay and the other two, judged by their published articles, probably don’t know any real gay people?

    All profess the same Biblical sexual ethic but that’s not enough for the homophobes.

  • There seems to be quite a bit of Calvinist-bashing taking place so I would just like to say that, as a Calvinist, I greatly appreciated this post. See, we aren’t all bad. 😉

  • Patrice

    You add, “…and never called them to repentance” which is not the point of discussion here, at Carter or at de Young. All three would hold to that.

    Careful thinking is an important skill to practice.

  • Patrice

    I’ve also been reading of “Driscoll Derangement Syndrome”. It’s sad to see fads also appearing in online rudeness.

  • Susan Humphreys

    Sorry Mr. Carter i think Jonathan Merritt captured the full drift of your message perfectly! I am not surprised that you can’t see it yourself. You have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear and I woul add a mind that can not comprehend.

  • Patrice

    Hannah, trad. Calvinists support evangelism, as also prayer, because they believe that part of God’s plan/will is that they do these things. God knows they will pray and they will evangelize, and it is factored in. Their determinism covers all, including acts of obedience.

    Trad. Calvinists (over against neo-Cals or hyper-Cals or Calvinistas, whatever) are logical and systematic. I was raised in it but left because I found their views of God to be inadequate and rigid, not because they didn’t see the logical conclusions.

    IMO, their idea of God’s sovereignty is not nearly big enough because they see control as the apex of greatness. But the emphasis on control becomes a strength when developing systematics—they are tres thorough!

  • Patrice

    Unfortunately, it is the neo-Cals (not the trads) who set up the divisive atmosphere by their elitism, their hard exceptionalist view of Christianity, one that sets many outside the fold or in the lower reaches of it (as if there is such a thing). This breeds condescension in their posts/comments. People are going to be upset by it.

  • John K

    Perhaps I’ve missed something, but how do we know the woman caught in adultery was naked? I don’t see anything in John 8 about that, at least in the ESV.

  • Brad

    Susan, you essentially just called Mr. Carter a non-believer. Please think before you post.

  • Joe Carter

    By the way, you forgot would Jesus have been with the Manson family as they murdered Sharon Tate?

    Um, not he wouldn’t. I think it’s blasphemous to claim that if Jesus were still in his earthy ministry that he would have tagged along as Manson and his crew slaughtered a pregnant woman. Do you think he’d have just hung back and watched while the murder was taking place?

    (Sometimes I wonder if people even think about what they are saying.)

  • Brad

    Have you read Mr. Carter’s clarifying article? I am guessing you have not.

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  • Patrice

    I agree. It appears that some people want to do God’s work for him. “Let me judge souls for you, God. That’ll make it easier for you.”

    But the fact that people are alive shows that God is still waiting for them, and if that is so, who are we to say that some among them are beyond the pall? Because that is what we decide when we refuse to go where they are.

    It is arrogant even within the doctrines of election, because no human knows who will be chosen. The “too dirty for me” approach is Elections-R-Us, since we no longer go into the by-ways to bring the hope of Love and Restoration.

  • Mike Montag

    Jesus went to Simon’s house…. (a religious leader) I think sometimes we decide what Jesus is like by what we want, not what is presented.

  • Troy

    As a christian the whole spirit of both the article and a lot of these comments make me sick, angry, and wishing Christ was here to straingthen all of you out. Paul tends to be far harder on christians with false teaching and devicive spirits than he does non-christians. It is a warn for us all.

  • Lou G.

    Amen, Patrice! That is my exact sentiment. If the men who I regularly read and respect at TGC would step back and put this squabble into the context of the Doctrines of Grace, rather than defending things that they may have over emphasized or exaggerated in order to support their own faulty pre-suppositions, this counterproductive argument would have been resolved much sooner (and my twitter feed would be much happier as well).

  • Lou G.

    I would say that the reason for mentioning Joe’s Calvinistic is to point out the inconsistency in his stated theology and his practical theology. I do think it is very relevant to the discussion. (mark d, not so, however)

  • Patrice

    I am not Kevin, but I also came from Christian Reformed circles and found the same thing. I’ve long wondered about the reasons behind this mentality.

    Tentative conclusions:
    –a fear that if one goes “out there”, one will become contaminated. (misunderstanding that evil emerges from every human heart, not entering from the outside)
    –a fear that if one lets go of familiar methodology, one has no way to present that which is most precious (lack of skill development)
    –a worry that God will look bad when one makes a mistake “out there” (forgetting that separatism is a systemic, thus larger, mistake)
    –a vague idea that Jesus held to US middle-class mores (Jesus’ standards were much bigger than them)

    Have you any other better ideas?

  • Jonathan R

    “Jesus would probably not be invited to any of your examples, but if he were he would go and he would minister to them.”

    Unfortunately I believe you are missing the point. Jesus going to minister to such people would violate what Jonathan Merritt is advocating. For doing so would be friendship with strings attached which is exactly what Jonathan Merritt is apposing here. With Jonathan Merritt’s reasoning ministering to such people would be disingenuous and unwarranted.

  • NWP

    BOSH! Joe, that’s a flat out untruth.
    This conversation has been bugging me: your posts appear to be self-serving and off topic, but then this! There is NO Biblical record that Jesus challenged her lifestyle, only that he acknowledged it. And there is no evidence of her repentance whatsoever.
    I observe that you do not have respect for what the Bible actually SAYS, only what you read into it.
    Really quite disappointing.

  • Jon C

    Joe you know that tweets are 140 characters long before you send them, Unless you ask the reader to go to specified link on a subject to read more we have to take you at the 140 characters. It isn’t taken out of context when he screen captures your paraphrase. The onus is on you for editing your social media output, not the reader.

  • Joel Parker

    Dear Joe,

    I am humbly considering this and would like to know your thoughts on this as I think through it also.
    I am not sure what Jesus would do in his earthly mission, I do know that he let Lazarus die and that he was present at his own murder, and that God is always present. He could intervene and stop that murder from happening at any time. I also know that Jesus hung out with a traitor for most of his three years of earthly ministry.
    It brings up questions in my mind of if Jesus would hang out with a young girl who is one of the only ones who knows she is pregnant and decided to go through with an abortion, would Jesus still be her friend?
    These are all very troubling questions, that really push the limits of my understanding of Grace.

  • Frank

    Since same sex couples cannot make a marriage there would be no marriage ceremony at all and nothing to celebrate. So no, no water turned to wine.

  • Jonathan R

    Lou. G

    Thanks for the insight in regards to Jonathan brining up Calvinism. However I would think that Jonathan, while he completely disagrees with Joe Carter’s position on this topic, he would at least think that it is consistent with Calvinistic theology. (Which would be a incorrect assumption as far as I’m concerned). After all why befriend sinners if their fate is all ready predestined right?

    With that in mind this led me to believe that brining up Calvinism wasn’t out of an attempt to show a inconsistency in Joes theology but rather to simply take a emotional cheap shot at the doctrine of grace. Pretty sad.

  • Ian

    You might have sparked my interest in your first statement, but then threw your entire argument into the water with your second statement via complete and utter distraction.

    Religion is not as toxic as you believe it to be for culture. Intellectually you may be able to hold that position, but from a practical philosophical position, it has no legs to stand on.

    I did not say atheists could not be moralistic, I simply made the claim that you’re claim regarding how toxic religion is to human relations was false. I did not make an attack. However, you threw an attack out on religion with your statement.

    Again, you may claim all the intellectual high ground you wish, but when pressed philosophically, your claim does not stand. Much like how communism might work on paper, but doesn’t work when implimented into practice.

  • Daniel

    This nonsense from Joe is the most dishonest thing I’ve ever seen from a self described Christian. As I’ve said, he’s pulling the usual stunt of playing semantics and word games, but don’t fall for it folks. Joe, who was it who reacted with outrage when Janet Mefferd called Driscoll to the carpet last December. By chance, was it J Taylor from TC? You want links? Ok, I’ll give one, but first a comment. It’s rich that you ask for links when you know full well that TC and your cronies/henchmen are masters at pulling links once the stuff hits the fan. In the day after ER2 more links were taken down than one could shake a stick at. See the blog “Wenatchee the Hatchet” for a recent post on how Mars Hill removes content all the time. But I digress. See below:
    Within this link there are many links, including a tweet from some guy named Justin Taylor who told people not to go on Janet’s show. Hmmmm Joe, that sounds a lot like someone taking Driscoll’s side, does it not?
    As for those of you who are so sure all of this is just an attack on Calvinists, you might try reading Carl Trueman’s blog. You see, Carl is a real Calvinist. He’s Presbyterian and teaches at Westminster Seminary. He was Calvinist long before it became trendy to become one. What you’ll find on Trueman’s blog are numerous posts critical of Driscoll and mostly critical of the subculture that protects its own at all costs. That’s the real issue here. Jonathan is not one of their own, so he gets ripped to shreds by Joe. But when you’re in the in group, you can seemingly do no wrong.

  • Yes, some hate the way Jesus listened to specific individuals. “You’re doing it all wrong, Jesus! Just pull out the Four Spiritual Laws, draw the diagrams on a napkin, explain the Gospel as clearly as possible, and make sure each person prays the prayer. Good grief! You were starting to get the hang of it with Nicodemus, but what a disaster when you talked with the Samaritan woman. There’s no way she really was converted. And talk about botching everything with the rich young ruler. What were you trying to do, Jesus? Teach works?!”

    The reality is, they’re scandalized not just by the Gospels, but also by the book of Acts. Good grief! Most of Jesus’ apostles were known to hang out at the Jewish Temple and some even hung out around Greek and Roman altars dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The fact is, most first century idols were found in homes and marketplaces, not in temples. And most of their attackers weren’t pagan priests, but rather merchants, sailors, soldiers, and the like.

    Furthermore, they would be scandalized if they checked around and discovered that some of Jesus’ followers today deliberately visit their local Buddhist temple, ask for special services, learn about Buddhism, participate in lively Q&A sessions, and actually make friends with the priest and some of his closest followers.

    The fact is, the core of orthodoxy and the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the same. Its transforming power is unabated after two millennia. Then again, the way Jesus’ followers live out and exchange that life-giving power still varies from place to place, and from person to person.

    On the cross, Jesus didn’t just die for the sins of the world. He died for the sins of particular, specific individuals. By definition, none of these individuals were saints. More importantly, none of these individuals were anonymous. Each person was someone Jesus knew from the foundations of the earth. Each individual is someone Jesus not only knew, but also named, walked alongside, heard in the depths of his or her soul, and invited into relationship with their Creator, Savior, and Sovereign.

    Who were these individuals? For one, a thief dying on another cross next to Jesus. That thief recognized who Jesus was and is; he recognized his own guilt and shame and powerlessness; and he cried out to Jesus, trusted in him, and entered paradise with Jesus that very day. That thief didn’t know much, but he embraced the essence of the Gospel, surrendered to Jesus Christ, and received eternal life—just as Jesus knew he would do—in the nick of time.

    Almost every time Jesus uses a new approach. Why? Because each individual starts at a different place, with different beliefs and misconceptions, with different hang-ups and sins, with different needs and circumstances, and with different kinds of relationships with God and others.

    What’s more, almost every individual “heard” and responded to Jesus and His Gospel message in different ways. Some, like Zacchaeus and Nathanael, became followers of Jesus almost instantly. Others, including Jesus’ own brothers, were anything but converted until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Whether fast or slow, every dialogue and conversion looked and sounded different from the others. No two, including brothers Peter and Andrew, had the same experience, let alone the same story.

    The implications are pretty staggering.

  • Daniel

    What a complete fraud. So Indiana Jim, what are your thoughts on journalism as it relates to Driscoll?

  • Nathan Johnson

    Absolutely. Public discussions can be so helpful and challenging, but when you’re not careful to quote accurately and represent charitably, then the argument becomes a personal battle where the issues become secondary to defending oneself and making the other person look like a tool. I think we’re seeing the results of this problem as Joe and JM go back and forth.

  • Bill

    I landed on this article because someone I follow retweeted it – the comments here are stunning. I’ve never commented here before, nor do I intend to again. All I’ll say is this:

    Frankly, right now, the Devil is laughing his ass off that Christians are arguing with fellow Christians about the meaning of Scripture.

    I’m not debating the merits of the argument – I’ve read some very insightful comments on both sides. So please hear me – I’m not telling you that your argument is wrong.

    But wow, stop listening to the Wormwood in your ear telling you that you need to defend or define Jesus. Jesus doesn’t need your defense. Get away from the keyboard and go love someone today as you sincerely believe Christ would have you do.

    If you feel that you can only love those who may be receptive to His word, then go love them – Lord knows there are plenty of people “on the fence” who need to hear what you can lovingly offer.

    If you feel that you have the God-given capacity to love even the most depraved sinners flaunting their sin, then go love them in Christ’s behalf, however the Spirit moves you to do so.

    Either way, I ask in Christ’s name, please step out of this trap and go!

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  • Patrice

    Keith Pavlischek, I don’t understand why you are so hostile. It is not required, not even in profound disagreements over the person of Christ.

    This is an important issue, not for the end extremes (nazi parties, porn star shoots, black masses—seriously, Joe?) but because it peels back a propensity in Evangelicalism to believe that evil is something “out there” that can contaminate you like an infectious disease. This mistaken belief will cause people to prioritize their own protection over bringing the message of Christ. It can also cause some to be more disgusted by the sin than by concern for a soul.

    A person with the Holy Spirit can go anywhere at all and not become “infected”. A person who recognizes that Christ came for all when we were beyond ourselves in trouble, will want to be the same for others. It’s that thing about loving others as ourselves.

    And the law itself, as explained by Jesus, tells us the way of it. Disinterested love is not nourishing and carries no attraction. The fundamental way to tell people about the love we have been freely given is to love them *where they are*, as Jesus did us.

    We become friends with people, and begin to see how beautifully God made them, and develop a desire for them to become their true selves, whole and healthy. That certainly wouldn’t include encouraging neo-nazi parties, etc because it isn’t good for them. But would we show up at one, if it made our love known more clearly? Yes.

    That you and Joe make the issue turn on such extremes shows that you have altogether missed the point.

  • Darrell Bock

    I regret I have to speak into this dispute which has escalated to a level that is unfortunate. What we are all struggling with is a tension in Jesus’ teaching. He associates with all “no strings attached” but that does not mean he affirms everything that person does “no strings attached.” He both associates and challenges. I discussed both points with Jonathan. We discussed the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. In both Jesus engaged AND challenged. Jesus pointed out what he knew of the Samaritan woman’s life and Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. The mistake is to cherry pick the combination. How that works out in specific scenarios is a call of conscience. The motive for action will make the rule. So some will bake cakes, others will refuse. I am reminded of Paul’s advice on eating meat offered to idols. Eat and do not ask where it comes from, but do not go to the temple and if someone says it was offered to an idol, do not eat. Not a one size fits all settings rule, but one calling for reflection and discernment. In these discussions nuance matters and we should be more gracious for how we sort it out, realizing a hard rule on either side may say too much and no rule may say too little.

  • Daniel

    Wow….it seems that many here have some reading comprehension issues. So, let me again explain the reason I brought Driscoll into this. Joe (along with many of his minions here) have ripped Jonathan over what they describe as faulty journalism. I find this to be the pinnacle of hypocrisy due to the fact that many of these same people are the ones who have no issues with the plagiarism charges that have been well documented/established against Driscoll.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Befriending someone so that you can evangelize them is manipulative and undermining of trust.”

    And is also very common. (Sell that Fire Insurance! Always Be Closing!)

    When I was at Cal Poly Pomona in the late Seventies, I was on the fringes of Campus Crusade for Christ (long before they rebranded themselves to sound more Edgy). One year a Billy Graham Crusade was coming to Anaheim Stadium, about ten miles down the 57 Freeway. Campus Crusade leaders called on all CCC types to “Bring your Unsaved friends to the Crusade to Get Them Saved.”

    And I witnessed this near-universal reaction among the CCC rank-and-file: “Oh No! I’ve only got two weeks to make some Heathen friends and get them to the Crusade! What do I do?”

  • Daniel

    Bravo! Good for you Maggie. Nice to see some intellectual honestly here.

  • For all the “good Christians” that somehow think that ‘friendship’ = ‘affirmation of anything said friend does’, you need to go and learn what friendship is really about.

  • Daniel

    For me, I’m not even taking up sides in the whole debate about who Jesus would or would not hang out with, evangelize, etc. I’m not doing that because I don’t know the answer. I’m honestly trying to think through that and process that. I do know that I’m probably more of a pharisee in this matter and that Christ hung out with people that I never would. So, I need to learn from that and be willing to spend time “sinners”. LOL, I put that in quotes because I’m a huge sinner.
    For me, what’s troubling is the vitriol with which Joe came here to rip Jonathan. I don’t get that. As I’ve noted, particularly the part where he rips Jonathan about journalism. I couldn’t figure out where the vitriol was coming from. I mean, what prompted it? Interestingly though, I came across a link that, to me, shines a whole new light on this exchange. Who was it who first broke the news of the plagiarism by Driscoll? Who is it that’s now being ripped here? Good Questions. Hint: the machine will protect itself and its own at all costs. Read on:

  • Darrell Bock

    Eric: Agreed. That is why in the church, accountability groups involve friends and friends look out for each other’s best interests.

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  • Joe Carter

    For me, what’s troubling is the vitriol with which Joe came here to rip Jonathan. I don’t get that.

    I admit I handled that poorly. Jonathan quoted me out of context, misrepresented my views, implied that his sources were responding to my comments, etc. While I believe I was right to be upset about this situation (JM and I have always been on friendly terms) I shouldn’t have responded so harshly.

    But your trying to tie this to Mark Driscoll is just silly. It might surprise some folks, but not everyone is in the Defend Driscoll Club. I don’t know Driscoll, haven’t read his books, haven’t watched his sermons, etc. I don’t have much interest in defending him much less have any animosity toward JM for following up on Janet Mefferd’s interview.

  • Jonathan R

    I get the sneaky suspicion you don’t care much for Mark Driscoll. That’s fine. Point taken. Is plagiarism bad? Yes. Is poor journalism bad? Yup. But despite your best efforts it really has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Such tactics as this is comes across as nothing more than a tip for tat childish tantrum. Time to move on and not miss the forest for the trees.

  • Bo Lasquis

    I find the notion that I am supposed to judge my fellow citizens of planet Earth before I can socialize with them with a clear conscience to be wholly and completely apart from everything I know about the nature and teachings of Jesus Christ. I don’t recall Jesus ever teaching us to validate other people’s spirituality and state of mind, and then somehow accurately predict the future by judging whether or not they are on a legitimate path to salvation, as a required process for making relationship with our fellow sinners.

    To me, this notion smacks far more of human rules that reflect human attitudes than it does the desire of our God of Love. Even if I were to accept this very un-Christ-like proposition, I still can find no justification whatsoever for elevating this issue about social criteria into a position of supremacy over loving one another. Jesus was very specific about loving one another being the second most important commandment. Judging people and setting conditions for them to meet before socializing with them isn’t loving one another. It’s judgmentalism of the highest order.

  • Brian F

    And once again, we humans show our finiteness by arguing a point by discrediting one another. Love God, love your neighbor and they will us by our love. This “debate” certainly shows the weakness of men compared to the Creator.

  • Larry

    What clarification? The man is looking for excuses to be a self-righteous judgmental inhospitable person in Christ’s words and deeds. This is all despite the fact that the stories point to the opposite. All in a way to dodge love of “thy neighbor”.

    Its just more excuses not to take the notion of religious morality seriously. Avoid issues of humanity and compassion in favor of excuses and legalistic arguments. Religious morality always seems to have escape clauses and exceptions to basic notions of moral conduct and goodwill.

    Why treat others with respect and compassion when you can be feel morally superior to them and inflate your ego? Never mind that such attitudes tend to be counterproductive to evangelism. Finding excuses to turn people away or to act like a malicious nabob was probably not what Jesus intended when he was trying to “spread the word”. Its very tough to show God’s love when you are exhibiting rancor and contempt.

    Obviously Mr. Carter wants to use his religious belief to make disagreeable (and fairly bigoted) views sound socially acceptable. Its a conflict between the image of a loving compassionate Jesus and Mr. Carter’s sectarian animus of fellow people. He can work those conflicts out himself. Good luck with it.

  • Patrice

    “I did not make an attack”.

    Yes, you did, Jon, you wrote “potential libel” and snarked about the quality of his education.

    And you did this, both the attack and then denial of it, to someone who isn’t a believer. Thus you show what Merritt is addressing.

  • Jónatas, é que vais buscar lá abaixo!

  • Patrice

    Jonathan, I’m sure you know that you are indulging hyperbole. Why do you?

    But I’ll explain, in case. “No strings attached” is about the love offered, the same kind given us by Christ. This love will go where the person is, as Christ did. This love will want the best for the other, as Christ did, encouraging the “best” wherever it shows up in situ, and offering it again and again, seventy times seven, as also Christ does for us.

    As Christ does here for you, when you deliberately misconstrue rather than attempting to recognize the pieces of truth in that which you disagree with.

  • Daniel

    But to me, it is related. It’s related precisely because Joe called out Jonathan for bad journalism. Look, I guess I’ll (reluctantly) accept Joe’s claim that he doesn’t defend Driscoll. I’m reluctant because by and large, what I see from TC is much more defending of Driscoll than calling him out. So to me, if you’re going to call out Jonathan for bad journalism, then you don’t get to defend Driscoll. It simply can’t work that way. That’s why I raised the whole issue and why I believe it’s related.
    Just so we don’t get things mixed up, I get what Joe is saying and I’ll accept him at his word that he’s not a Driscoll defender. However, keep in mind, that often times, silence on a matter actually speaks volumes.

  • Ron Miller

    Some people say Jesus was the friend of sinners. He didn’t say that. Jesus said the Pharisees said he was the friend of sinners. The Pharisees were trying to discredit Jesus. If I help someone take their groceries to their car and don’t know them, I’m not their friend but I am helping them out by being friendly. Now let’s say that person is a minority and some guy across the street who belongs to the KKK sees me, he may accuse me of being fiends with minorities, when I may have no friends at all. His friends are probably racist at the least prejudice and he wants to hurt my reputation in the community, so he says I’m a friend of minorities. Jesus gave us his definition of friend those who do his Fathers will. I hardly think everybody around Jesus was doing that, none the less Jesus came and shared the gospel with those around him. The Bible teaches us Bad company corrupts good morals. Paul said to not be unequally yoked, this is more than just marriage it is the friends that we make, that is those closet to us should be believers but we should be friendly to all.

  • Joe Carter — why are you so defensive? IF you believe what you wrote is correct… move on… you’re only hurting your standing by continually contributing to this post in such a “he said – I said” fashion.

    Bottom line, when Jesus entered the room He was a thermostat NOT a thermometer — He set the temperature. He didn’t hang out just to hang out. He didn’t ‘party’ as we think of party. He made an impact. His very nature brought life change to anyone hater or follower who hung around him for any amount of time.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    Heya Joe. Long time no see.

    Nish, it’s a really bad idea to use examples of what might have upset certain cultural norms of Jesus’ day and just make up modern equivalencies out of whole cloth. The fact is that the two AREN’T equivalent. Sure, talking with a woman may have “upset cultural norms” of the time, but there’s nothing in fact sinful about being female or talking to a woman!! Furthermore, Jesus isn’t joining a celebration of her sin or anyone else’s sin. He is having a private talk with a person, revealing who he is, revealing her own sin to her, and throwing in some prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem while he’s at it.

  • Karen


    You, so far, has made the most sense as of yet!

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  • Janelle

    Meanwhile, Satan watches this squabbling with glee. For goodness sake, is this even worth arguing about? No wonder people are turning from the church in droves. We are all on the same team here. We have one mission: make disciples. We don’t have time for this division. Jesus is coming back soon and there are REAL PEOPLE who don’t know Him and those people will go to a REAL PLACE CALLED HELL unless WE do something about it. I think THAT matters more than arguments about what “kind” of sinner Jesus would have hung out with.

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  • John W

    Actually none of us are called to live like Jesus…unless you intend to move to Israel, hold a three year teaching and miracle crusade & then die for the sins of Mankind.

    Instead we are called to live like Christians. And for this we require all of the New Testament’s teaching not just the four gospels. When we look at all of the Bible’s teaching rather than just having the gospels-only fixation on display here then things become a little clearer.

    For starters the distinction is found between associating with immoral people who claim to be Christians and those who don’t (1 Cor 5:9-13). Also we discover that unsaved people are meant to be surprised that we no longer do the things they do like going to “drinking parties” and that we no longer “join them in the same flood of debauchery”; (1 Pet 4:3-4).

    Sure reads to me like strip clubs and same-sex “weddings” are out.

  • I think both articles miss the mark in different ways. Yes, Jesus was a friend of sinners, and yes he spent time with those who were far from God with little indication that they were moving toward God. But HOW was he a friend of sinners? Primarily, Jesus was the friend of sinners by calling them to repent and believe the gospel and there is no, zero evidence, that he spent a lot of time building relationships over months and months to get to that message.

    He was a friend of sinners because he did not shy from preaching the whole counsel of God, law and gospel. He was an indescriminate sower of seed calling all to repent and believe (Mark 1-2).

  • Joe, did you say the 5 words?
    You are SO off the mark with the article you inserted (Strip Club Buffet). It is completely offensive to those who have poured their lives out for these women, given of their time, actually gone into the clubs and loved on these women. Gah…I’m so glad you were extended grace….but somehow you were not as repulsive to God as these women are. Really?

  • Steve

    Almost everything joe carter writes reminds me of a very self righteous Pharisee. His Calvinism as displayed by his arguements here is not Calvinism at all, as he clearly is proposing that full repentance must precede Jesus love for sinners. Joe, prideful Pharisees like you, turns me away from the reformed faith. And you might acquaint yourself with ordo salutis.

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  • Nate Sparks


    While I was critical of your approach before, I respect your candor here immensely. This whole blog commentary has gotten immensely out of hand and most of the people here have forgotten what it means to speak to each other in love towards the greater edification of the body of Christ. I had continued to follow this hoping that, despite your initial responses you would prove to be the man of integrity I suspected you were. I am pleased that you have demonstrated that I am right.

    While you and I disagree, I plan to read your blog post linked above in hopes that I can better understand how it is that you feel you have been misrepresented and have my own opinions challenged so that I myself might grow in my faith. Thank you again for having the humility to aknowledge the short comings of your approach in such a public and heated setting.

  • Susan Humphreys

    The very concept of Grace (whether from God or Jesus or any one of us) means that it is freely given, there are no strings attached. You don’t have to do anything to receive it. You don’t have to repent, belong to the Right church, practice the Right sacraments (be sprinkled rather than dunked or baptized at all), believe the RIGHT beliefs, you don’t have to accept it. If there are strings attached it isn’t Grace that you have, it is bribery or coercion on the givers part and encourages the receiver to lie or pretend to get it. Jesus “friendship” is a form of Grace. Grace is granted to all or to none, saints and sinners, believers and non-believers, or it isn’t Grace.

  • Susan Humphreys

    One other comment. There are passages in the Bible that tell folks to stay away from sinners so as not to be “polluted” by them. I think this is why some have a hard time accepting the idea that Jesus was a friend to sinners. BUT Jesus, if you can believe any of the claims made about him, was a Perfect soul, and as such couldn’t be tainted by anything, any temptation. Jesus is showing that IF you are a TRUE Believer, you don’t have to worry about being “polluted” by others, you are past all of that, and that by your presence, by your actions alone, you are the teacher/example of the goodness of your path. Unfortunately many who see themselves as True Believers show us by their actions that they aren’t there yet!

  • I’ve read all the comments and I agree with Darrell Bock’s assessment: both sides seem to be making it an either/or when it’s more likely that Jesus hangs with sinners AND he tries/wants to transform them. ie it’s a both/and

    The bible doesn’t seem to help answer definitively either – it’s clear from above that one can make it side with any position. So maybe we should all admit that we don’t really, for sure, absolutely know what Jesus would do with or how He would interact with the world’s continuum of ‘hiding’ – to – ‘flaunting’ sinners… And let it at that and go back to begging Him for mercy, as it’s clear we’re all on that continuum somewhere.

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  • John Carter

    Perhaps you should await the result of your questions before suggesting malice. Or are your questions merely rhetorical and this is an accusation of malice? If you would reply to the substance of the question, I’d have more faith that your reply is something other than sour grapes. In my view Calvinists have long been representing our Lord and the disciples as Calvinists and that is self-deception that bears such fruit.

  • John Carter

    Good Lord. When this conversation began, it seemed there was a problem with clarity regarding “flaunting” and that if we unpacked our assumptions, we might not be in disagreement. Clearly, we (probabably) all agree that Jesus did not participate in sin. If he was hanging out with prostitutes, he wasn’t seeking a law that would allow him to contract their services in order to catch them. If he was hanging out with tax collectors, he wasn’t on the take in pilfering from that collection. This isn’t that complicated. Second, it does not seem to me that the distinction of “flaunting” sin versus any other kind of sinfulness can really do the work Joe and others seem to be hoping for. I’m not interested in arguing that point but that is my impression. Finally, whether we can agree that Christians ought to withhold themselves from work, from social relationships, from participation in potentially corrupt systems (like our government), from exchange of goods … with people who *might* be flaunting, is the crux of the question. Unless you wish a pietistic withdrawal from society akin to the Amish or Mennonites, unless you wish a ghetto-ized Christian community, I suggest that at minimum, it is going to be impossible to maintain what may amount to a newly defined set of purity laws. ‘New’ because ‘flaunting’ isn’t a biblical term *or distinction*, as far as I know. But as the conversation has continued, I more get the impression that Joe isn’t following his own rules here. Is he not engaged with ‘flaunters’ here? I’d guess it depends on whether one has a business or ego investment as to whether engagement with ‘flaunters’ is OK or not. Pragmatic idealism. As to what Jesus said and did, it would be a dismissal of the Jesus of the gospels to forget that he does not bless sin. He did a fair amount of rebuking of sinners, particularly those who positioned themselves within the social system and used that system to judge others with a different standard. We all may be doing that from time to time so all this mutual stone throwing adds to our poor witness.

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  • Thank you so, so much for this article, Jonathan. I think this is an especially important discussion to have, because the idea that Jesus needs us to be sorry before welcoming us is exactly what kept me shutting God out when I couldn’t stop my eating disorder. Personally, I think many of us only repent, change, etc, after we are welcomed by Jesus. (

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  • Michael

    Or the billionaire who just looted a pension fund for another few million? A few million that constitute a rounding error to him, but devastation to those pensioners? Or a bloodthirsty right-wing warhawk who believe we need to bomb everyone who disagrees with us back to the Stone Age? Interesting the examples used here. Also worth pointing out that Nazis could be very religious, at least outwardly.

    What does the word “flaunt” mean anyway? It’s a red-flag word used to denigrate the criticism. “Flaunt” in this context means nothing; is JC saying that Nazis who massacre but are quiet about it are okey-dokey?

  • Michael

    Like all those patriarchs in the Bible who had multiple wives?

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  • DrewTwoFish

    “Flaunting their sin (such as at a same-sex wedding.)” I wondered how long it would be before that was trotted out. Jesus.

  • Barbara Wilson

    Actually there is no reason (except ongoing misogyny) to believe that the nameless Samaritan woman had “lifestyle” about which Jesus “challenged her.” If the woman’s first husband died, because of the tradition of Levirate marriage (Yibbum in Hebrew) she could have ended up with her husband’s brother who could have abandoned/divorced her, and so on until she ended up living with a man who was not her husband but who was willing to allow her a place in his household out of pity and/or because she was a distant relative or a cousin. Jesus isn’t challenging–he is simply making a statement of fact which as easily may be understood as a compassionate observation of her tragic situation. It certainly seemed thrilling to her–she calls him a prophet!

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  • concerned brother

    Joe & Johnathan – please read the Scripture below (taken from the NIV translation of Matthew 18) and take your argument to a private setting. If you still cannot settle your differences, then take them before a godly man you each respect. If necessary, and no reconciliation can be found, then please increase the number of mediators. HOWEVER, continuing to fight over your own interpretations of each others’ meanings and motives in such a public way, and mixing in Scriptural *excerpts* to support your personal feelings, is NOT beneficial to the Kingdom, nor to your own reputations (and, therefore, your ability to successfully and efficiently do God’s work).

    Dealing With Sin in the Church

    15“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    18“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

    19“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

  • How did Jesus treat one flaunting their sin? When I read this, I think of Judas who came with a band of soldiers to arrest Jesus as he did his thing as traitor. How did Jesus treat that sinner who was flaunting his sin? Jesus called him “friend”. I wrote an article on how Jesus treated Judas as they hung out together even to the point of telling Judas that his death was also for Judas!

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  • Aysha

    As Adam said so well, the point was NOT that Jesus “Convinced” her to repent. Her repentance came out of his love for her- He SAW her warts and all, and LOVED HER STILL. He didn’t condemn her or tell her to repent. He loved and her desire to spread the news about him flowed out of that love. The problem with feeling the need to continually remind people that you think they are sinners, is that it doesn’t bring them TO Jesus, in my experience it usually drives them far far away.

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  • Joe, I’m not a pastor and I’m not looking for an argument, but I felt compelled to simply reply to your 3-scenario question with my perspective. We are broken people who live in a constant condition of sinfulness. Whether it’s active or not, God sees our heart. Grace means we can’t earn Jesus’s presence by being good for a little while–good enough for Him to spend time with us. I can’t think of a motivation for Him to stay away from those 3 scenarios that wouldn’t seem to apply outside kid that particular space and time.
    PS- I will read your whole article, because personally, I hate feeling like my thoughts were taken out of context 🙂

  • After reading the link you posted and your response, I’d have to say I disagree even more. I can appreciate your train of thought, but it seems like you’re caught up in the idea that there’s only one way to help people see the better way–by spelling it out for them literally. I don’t believe that. I believe we save some with compassion. You also seem to believe that our presence (not sponsorship) at an event would constitute tacit approval. I can’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Should we not attend a neighbor’s barbecue if people are swearing during conversation or getting drunk or arriving with a sexual partner they’re not married to? I think Paul admonishes us to the opposite. It also seems like you would classify some sins as more sinful than others. It’s easy for us to do that, but I think sin is sin to God. Broken is broken. We all start on the wrong side for he line, no matter how close we feel we are to it.

  • Ray Phillips

    EXACTLY Micah!!! THANK YOU! If we dare to say that JESUS seeks out any company of the “lost” beyond those who have been elected and driven to him – then we must question our doctrine. Since we know that will not happen… then surely Jesus only hung out with the “robots” of his glory and the cross was nothing more than dramatic prose added to an already decided eternity. Thankfully I stand with you Mr. Merritt committed to a God who came to SEEK and to SAVE –> “THAT” which was LOST.

  • Katey

    While the tone of this discussion has been troubling at times; I, for one, am very glad to see it happening. The Christian community desperately needs a discussion of the principles involved in engagement with culture. We need more conversations like this (especially managed with grace and theological precision).

  • Psalm 39:3-4 ASV
    American Standard Version
    My heart was hot within me; While I was musing the fire burned: [Then] spake I with my tongue[ tough devil and it rival finishing agendas front]
    “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is[ here from evidence use India fall destruction and dead solutions in 1993, in Kuwait from : Gulf life pledge high risk cost and lost rival six foot soil cover make war/destroy midst[2011 middle east war and instability solutions]
    2011 DHQ and US President with VP real safe and today obvious :send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue[ Today safe in life death time also remember ]
    Luke 16:22-24
    New International Version (NIV)
    22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
    cords of death entangled me[ today safe touch remember at the death time also]
    Not only India but 2011 DHQ and US President and Vice –President give below contents fall .b.k.john
    Psalm 116:3-4
    New International Version (NIV)
    3 The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
    4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
    “LORD, save me!”
    keep his wrath from destroying them[ Destroy from today safe up to death time also in life remember]
    Not only India but 2011 DHQ and US President and Vice –President give below contents fall .b.k.john
    Psalm 106:23
    New International Version (NIV)
    23 So he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
    stood in the breach before him
    to keep his wrath from destroying them.
    Obama’s solution: Outsource the war on terror[ dark and mortal make deep worst from turn into new light]
    Chicago Tribune
    Published: May 30, 2014 – its back till 2011 unseen evidence and it history seal opened- it is old ear from real awaken ear by grasp essence modification [ If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames]!!!
    War as a ‘disaster’ just understand way opened US President – 2011 tough trial touch awaken after 2014 in this world front !!!
    Prayer and action : Since 1974 Human, society and nation inside challenges and threaten midst evil and devil make tough destruction and dead [ gradual progress, its destroy against]. Connection final achievement Gulf life pledge turn into nation[dark] burn and leader ship conflict of savage tough tragedy midst not only India but USA !!
    N.B:- Two decade total tragedy and family environment also spoil; this critical situation used unlimited six foot soil cover and nuclear bomb threaten change . Final family rehabilitation procedure share way interest one dignity looking this world midst . B.K.JOHN.

  • chuck

    There are so many things that are woefully out of place in this article, including, but not limited to Scripture taken out of context, but I’ll pass on dissecting the content – not worth it.

  • Kathy

    I was just researching this topic. I came across the BEST article, too! Maybe you would enjoy it.
    “When to Hang Out with Sinners.”

  • Gigi

    Joe seems pretty good at missing the point.

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  • Rather than consulting professors that already agreed with your conclusion, why not look directly at what the bible says in answer to the question of Jesus’ motives behind “hanging out with sinners”.

    “While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat[e] with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

    But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. (many manuscripts add “to repentance”)”
    (Matthew 9:10-13)

    Jesus saw sinners as sick people in need of a doctor.

    And we shouldn’t ignore the warnings the bible gives either..
    “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
    2 Corinthians 6:14-15

    I don’t believe it’s manipulative to befriend someone to evangelize them. If you care for that person and don’t want them to go to hell, then befriending them to share the gospel with them is the most loving thing you could do.

  • Awesome article, went with my sermon this past week, I published a like to your article from my church blog
    Do you have a reference for the picture you used? I love it and would love to know the artist’s name.
    blessings on your ministry!

  • Phil DuFrene

    LOL…”hell hath no fury like a Calvinist scorned.”

    I have found so much arrogance among Calvinists. THEY have the truth while others are following ignorant teachings. The Scripture is plain as day about their 5 points. THEY will turn off discussions that question their favourite verses about predestination. They will say they are all for evangelism but when pressed it is not truly a call to the world, but to find the chosen.

    How could they ever teach their kids the song, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world….” when they believe God hates (like Esau) those who are not chosen?

    Jesus! What a friend of sinners…Jesus! Their only hope is for Him to come to them in their depravity!

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  • Sarah Y

    All the above aside, what do you do if a gay friend invites you to their wedding??? That isn’t just being in a place where “sin is flaunted”, the very event itself is a celebration of sin. Like people are clapping and smiling and saying congratulations. That’s why I have a hard time seeing Jesus “hanging out” there like he did at some other places, like the well where the Samaritan woman was, or places where “sinners” ate or dwelled. I’m not terribly well-studied yet in the Bible but did Jesus attend services at the temples for the false gods and idols of the day? I mean, sure Jesus would be friends with the people who did attend, but if they invited him I don’t think he would have attended, right? Those are actually ceremonies and services CELEBRATING sin. Then again, maybe Jesus would have hung out at the reception following the gay wedding? Lol, I dunno. Just fishing for some insight. Thanks!

  • heather

    I’m so late to this but I’m going to put my two cents in. Jesus’s mission was to spread the news of salvation. Anyone that wanted to sit with him could no matter their intention. Anyone who wanted to speak to him could. Belief was never a requirement. Jesus was perfect and without sin. We as the body are not Christ. We can and should live everyone but I am not obligated as a believer to put myself in situations that are going to put me at risk of overwhelming temptation or polite my mind. For example. If I’m with a non Christian friend and she pops in a porno, I’m going to politely leave. I had a drug problem years ago. I still have friends that do drugs sometimes but if they were to break them out in front of me I would excuse myself. I am obligated first to make sure there is no plank in my own eye, to protect my own spirit health and relationship with Christ. I am not to put that in jeopardy because then what kind of example of Him am I?? Now someone who never struggled with drugs might still be able to hang out. That depends in what God has personally convicted them on. We all have different weaknesses that can tempt us to sin. Natalie never said when exactly or why exactly that she left early. Just that she did and had her own convictions. Why is that an issue ?? Maybe hearing a song bashing the bible made her uncomfortable. Maybe she struggles with gossiping and someone near her was talking about someone else. Maybe she struggles with lust and felt she didn’t need to see some of the more proactive perfomances. Maybe she disagrees with gay marriage. She never spoke badly of anyone. She never pointed fingers. She just went home. She followed the conviction she felt God put in her heart. Maybe she just wanted to come share a sing about Jesus and remove herself from a secular event. All of that is OK. She was not obligated to stay. She is obligated to share Christ and to love. Standing up and shouting or bashing the performers via fb would have been unloving. She did neither. She just quietly made her exit. Are we to open our hearts to all? Yes. Are we to love all? Yes. Are we to be kind? Yes. Are we to be friends with sinners? Yes. Its impossible not to believers and non alike, we are all sinners and fall short. But to assume that because of those things we are to ignore our convictions or condone all things us off base. Jesus is a friend to sinners but he was never a friend to sin. She simply removed herself from a situation she felt God told her to remove herself from. Wwjd? He’d obey whatever his father in heaven told him to do. Whatever that would have been in his case. Which is exactly what we are to do.

  • Andrew

    I don’t think you have understood the DeYoung article that you took issue with, and you did not communicate it correctly to those that you got comments from. Yes, Jesus came to save sinners, but we have to be careful with how far we take the phrase “friend of sinners”. And this is the point that Kevin DeYoung makes. I think you would find that all the people that you asked for comments from would actually agree with that article.

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  • Giles

    Er, no! He hung with tax collectors. He did not allow tax collectors (or at the time Gentiles), the status of disciples. Mathew 18:17. QED.

  • Giles

    That was a reply to the claim Jesus only hung out with followers. With the above post I agree. Mathew had to leave his profession to follow Jesus but Jesus clearly had no qualms about hanging out with practising tax collectors.

  • Illuvitus

    A little late to this game, but with the various comments all suggesting that Jesus would be friends with people on our own terms, why not consider what Jesus said himself?

    John 15:13-15:

    “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

    We are His friends if we do what He commands. It’s conditional, whether it bothers modern sensibilities or not.

  • Alex

    I think your comment was intentionally pejorative. Perhaps I am reading into it, but your implication is that Madison Ruppert was either intentionally or unintentionally not thinking carefully. Either way, it comes across as a personal comment on Madison and not on the content of his comment.

    Regarding the content, calling or not calling them to repentance is kinda “the point.” Which am I supposed to believe is more likely…that fully-God Jesus indiscriminately spent time with everyone and put aside His agenda of saving the world for the sake of peaceable dinner conversation with sinners, OR that those Jesus embraced an “open door” policy allowing everyone to come, but permitted those who were turned off from His message to depart?

    We should be warm, kind, receptive, gentle, and loving towards everyone. But the goal of our social interactions is to glorify God, including appropriately espousing His despise of immoral behavior.