Jesus Didn’t Call Them Sinners… Wait, What?

1239045_10151514641512820_329804622_nMaybe I should just stop expecting good theology from memes off the Internet. Maybe then I won’t be disappointed when it fails to make an appearance.

Take this one, which recently crossed my path on Facebook: “Jesus didn’t call them sinners. He called them friends.”

Ah, yes. Wisdom from the holy Book of Memes: short and sugary and calculated to make you smile as a warm feeling slides over you like so much syrup over a fluffy pancake.

Meanwhile, the inanity of this statement goes unnoticed; or, if it is noticed, it seems to be regarded as simply “not that important.” Surely whoever wrote this had their heart in the right place, and that’s what matters, so let’s have a group hug, shall we?

Let’s not. This sentiment is the product of Hallmark, not of serious theological reflection. It is a half truth. And like most half-truths, it’s too simple. Accepting it, we trade a hearty, delicious, soul-nourishing biblical paradox for a cup of thin and marshy porridge.

Jesus most definitely did call them sinners, and He most definitely did call them friends, and it is the first fact which makes the second fact so wonderful to consider. “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

That Jesus should be a friend of “good people” would not surprise us. That He should hang out with the elite would seem most fitting. That He should die for the deserving would be no scandal. But a friend of sinners? A savior who came for the lost and the hateful? As the old hymn puts it, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?” 

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4 thoughts on “Jesus Didn’t Call Them Sinners… Wait, What?”

  1. Thanks for the reminder that if one objects to this kind of picture, it isn’t just through grumpiness. It is through compassion and the desire not to rob people of the sweetness of the Gospel. Isn’t it funny how half-truths are often more damaging than whole-piece lies?

  2. It seems like people, in general, have a more and more difficult time believing a paradox. That Christ would call us sinners and friends is a wonderful, awe inspiring paradox! Instead, we look at the ugly word “sinner” and the more beautiful word “friend” and think there’s no way those two can go together like that! So, we take one or the other. Some people beat themselves over and over again with “sinner”, other people post memes like the one you referenced.

  3. (You wrote it! :D)
    Very well said! I can’t stand memes that water down theological truths that way, and it was refreshing to read a thought-out response to one. :)

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