“1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
The life of Jesus attracted sinners and repelled religious hypocrites. The result? Something I call Jesus gossip.
Jesus gossip is when people spoke negatively of Jesus for reasons other than something he had done wrong. In this case, it was hanging out with those considered sinners with a capital S. At other times, it was for healing on a holy day when work was not allowed, or speaking well of someone who was not Jewish. Again, nothing sinful, but rather socially unacceptable in Jesus’ religious culture.
But does Jesus gossip still occur today? Oh, yeah. Sometimes religious figures actually do something wrong and there is a public outcry, but that’s not what I am speaking of here. Jesus gossip occurs today when people who truly attempt to live like Jesus are accused of wrong by the status quo religious establishment of our culture.
An example? I once became friends with a guy who was gay (He had not made this public at the time.). When he later made his orientation known, I was considered a bad guy because I didn’t turn and run.
Another time, I started investing in the lives of some troubled teens and was told to spend more time with “the kids I was paid to help” (I worked at a church at the time.). I had done nothing wrong; my goal was to model a better way of life to the modern equivalent of tax collectors and sinners.
Now I write and talk with people of all kinds of backgrounds and people sometimes launch into the same Jesus gossip. I haven’t been called a vampire-loving, Satan-worshiping, closet-Harry Potter junkie, Glee-watching, NPR-listening heretic just yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time (only the NPR part is true).
So how should I (and we) respond?
Jesus responded with three of the best stories in all of the Bible–the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. What is the theme? The lost part. He came to seek and to save the lost.
When Jesus left earth, he told his followers (including us) to do the same (Matthew 28:18-20).
He simply left out in that spot that there would be Jesus gossip about us, too.
Our goal cannot be to please everyone; we will fail every time. But if our goal is to please Jesus, then we would do well to focus efforts among the tax collectors and sinners of our time, responding to those who spread gossip about us with a reminder that we are here to seek and to save the lost.
Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at readdB.com.