A conversation from a long time ago came back to me tonight. I’m not too sure why, but it was a conversation in a Sunday School class, or something like that. Our teacher was also a deacon, and was sharing with us stories relating to how we need to be in the world and not of it. I guess he was trying to share examples from his own life. He was telling us about a pizza place down the road from the church that also had a bar. It seems the deacons had themselves a dilemma. They wanted to go there for the pizza, but what about the bar? What if other people saw them walk in to the bar? That guy’s a deacon at the church, and he’s going into a bar!? Of course these random passerbys who witness the deacons enter the bar, yet don’t actually go in to see the deacon abstaining from alcohol (whether or not the deacon actually needs to completely abstain from alcohol is a whole other issue, one I’m not about to address).
At the time of the conversation, the logic made sense to me. I’m not so sure now. A lot of it probably draws on the fact that this scenario assumes drinking alcohol is bad. I’m not so sure if that’s a valid assumption. If you’re over 21, there’s no reason why you can’t drink. Certainly being foolish and getting drunk wouldn’t be too Christ like. But didn’t Christ himself drink wine?
And maybe this is the pickle I find myself in. Some Christians claim drinking is bad and being associated with those who drink is bad. The deacon who wouldn’t go to the pizza place for fear of someone thinking he was going to the bar would fall into this category. This is the conservative stance, but I’m not so sure if it’s very smart. Didn’t Jesus associate with the sinners? So why do some Christians look down on those who associate with people who drink (or whatever questionable activity you want to consider).
Maybe this is a no brainer to some of you. But it seems worth considering to me. I came from a church where this was the prevailing thought: don’t associate with the sinner. Yet it was always pointed out in sermons and teachings that Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and prostitutes. Maybe it’s okay for Jesus–but not for us. This even goes to a deeper level and the question of how do we deal with culture?
Sometimes I think we just need to ask ourselves some questions. Maybe we’re a little too worried about a good image and what people think–and not focusing enough on people’s souls.