The “Jesus Paradox”

I want to let you in on some wrestling I have been doing with God lately. It involves two unassailable Biblical facts about Jesus. First, Jesus never compromised, soft-pedaled, or underplayed truth. Jesus never sinned in any way (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, persons who struggled with sin seemed to want to be in Jesus’ presence (Luke 7:37, 15:1). Moreover, Jesus is found multiple times in the Gospels spending relational time with persons with known sin issues (John 4:1-42, Luke 5:27-31, etc.)

Here’s my struggle—how did Jesus manage to do both of those at the same time? How could he be completely faithful to Biblical truth and yet do so in a way that drew broken people to His presence?

In my Christian experience, it seems that many tend to focus on one or the other. In the name of truth, some Christians feel they must never associate or fraternize with any “sinners,” for fear that they might somehow become contaminated by association and that they might be seen as compromising.

Such Christians feel they must loudly denounce all sinners and prove their faithfulness to truth by shielding themselves from relational connections with broken people. The result is often an abrasiveness that drives sinful persons away rather than drawing them toward Jesus.

For other Christians, in the name of connection, there is a willingness to surrender Biblical truth. Hence the emphasis in some Christian circles that in the name of “love,” we should stop being so “narrow” about Biblical truth assertions concerning the sanctity of life, the nature of marriage, gender, and the like.

Claiming to be non-judgmental, these persons gut the Gospel of its transformational impact. The result is an impotent relational openness that, while arguing for Jesus’ “love,” does so at the cost of the life-changing power of Biblical truth (John 8:32).

Jesus modeled for us a lifestyle that brought both truth and relational connection into balance. It is beyond argument that Jesus was the quintessential defender and communicator of truth. However, He did that in a way that drew broken people toward and into relationship with Himself. It is a style that unarguably included His intentional relational engagement with known sinful people—and in that engagement, they did not pass uncleanness to Him. Instead, His engagement opened an opportunity for cleansing salvation to flow to them.

Since we are called as His followers to imitate Jesus’ example, I invite you to pray with me that we will learn from Him how to live with both uncompromised truth and intentional relational engagement in balance.

One thing is certain. It cannot be inherently sinful to relationally engage sinful people because Jesus did so regularly (much to the Pharisees’ chagrin, frustration, and outright rage)—and yet Jesus never sinned. May God grant us wisdom and grace to understand how we might faithfully follow His lead.

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