Would Jesus Sit in the Bar Area?

The other day while I was at a restaurant I watched as a host attempted to seat two gentlemen in the bar area. Mind you, the “bar area” isn’t actually at the bar, but just in the vicinity where most restaurants allow open seating and smoking (in states where smoking is allowed; in my own, smoking isn’t allowed anywhere in a restaurant). The men acted deeply offended that the host would even suggest the idea of sitting in the bar area because one of them was a Baptist minister. As I watched, multiple people who came in their church clothes simply refused to sit in the bar, and most acted offended when offered the bar area. They were more willing to wait 10-15 minute to get a seat than to sit in the bar area.

It is after this experience that I came across an article by John MacArthur that all but condemns Christians who drink alcohol, especially those who do so in order to “fit in” within the culture. His argument is that people who get tattoos, drink beer, and smoke cigars all in the name of “reaching out” are abandoning their Christian identity in order to reach people. He argues,

This tendency to emblazon oneself with symbols of carnal indulgence as if they were valid badges of spiritual identity is one of the more troubling aspects of the YRR movement’s trademark restlessness. It is wrong-headed, carnal, and immature to imagine that bad-boy behavior makes good missional strategy. The image of beer-drinking Bohemianism does nothing to advance the cause of Christ’s kingdom.

Now, it may shock some people, but I partially agree with MacArthur’s point; when we drink, smoke, get a tattoo, or do whatever in order to appear “cool” so as to advance the Kingdom, we’re using a marketing strategy and not relying on the Holy Spirit. In other words, our actions are empty, purposeless, and will generally only attract Christians who are dejected with the current culture. There’s generally no real conversion.

But what MacArthur ignores in his critique, and I would argue that many others are guilty of this, is that it’s equally dangerous when Christians retreat into a sub-culture with man-made rules on what it means to be holy. While churches that have “beer night” in order to have outreach may not advance the Kingdom, neither do preachers who rant against the dangers of alcohol or refuse to sit in the bar area at a local restaurant. MacArthur quotes from Matthew 11:19 where the Pharisees call Jesus a friend of “tax collectors and prostitutes.” They call Him a drunkard and a glutton because those are the types of people He was hanging around. While we can say that Jesus didn’t engage in getting drunk or in prostitution (though certainly He had a drink of wine – after all, He was a practicing Jew), He didn’t have a problem being around such people and befriending such people.

The people who are the target of MacArthur’s scorn and MacArthur himself misses out the fact that if you desire to reach people, you must live the essence of the Gospel. That essence is self-sacrificial, unconditional love. The Greek word, or at least the concept, is famously known as agape. We don’t need to submit to what’s “cool” in the culture in order to show people Christ, but neither do we need to create a sub-culture to shelter ourselves from the influences of the world. Rather, we should have no problem being amongst “sinners” just as Christ had no problem with it. Furthermore, we should have the grace and wisdom to know what we can engage in and what we cannot engage in. We should know our own personal limits.

Finally, in living a life of agape, we should never judge other Christians who may have a glass of wine before bed or go out and get a beer with friends. So long as such a person is not getting drunk or an alcoholic, who are we to judge? Where in Scripture can we say that such an action is wrong? Just as it’s wrong for Christians to use alcohol as an outreach tool, so too is MacArthur wrong for judging any and all Christians who drink alcohol. When we create the idea that drinking is wrong, we inherently limit who we’ll reach out to, to the point we become ridiculous and won’t even sit anywhere close to a bar. How does that “further the Kingdom of God?”


The Bad Breath of Jesus and His Humanity


On my web stats there was a site that was bringing in a few visitors, so I decided to check it out. The post was from November 2007 (which I don’t know why that happened), but I read it and, suffice it to say, was quite upset.

Before going into what upset me (and the reason for this post), this website reminds me so much of a version of Christianity that is killing Christianity. The author wrote one post about how he loved a “parking ticket” tract that worked great. Think about that – a person comes out from her office building, sees what looks to be a parking ticket, gets extremely upset because it means a fine is coming, then realizes that it’s a tract asking her to believe in Jesus (not to mention tracts are impersonal and horrible ideas to begin with, this one takes the cake). This tends to be the nature of the site.

However, the post and comments in question deals with the nature of Jesus’ humanity. Mark Driscoll, back in 2007 when trying to promote his book Vintage Jesus (which is a great read) put out a series of mints that asked, “Did Jesus have bad breath?” The purpose, of course, was to get people to reflect on the humanity of Jesus.

The author writes that such a question is blasphemy (though he never explains why) and should never be asked about God. One commenter says, “Jesus didn’t have bad breath, He had the breath of the Holy Spirit!” Another comes out and says that it’s blasphemy to suggest that Jesus was inhibited by any fallen human traits. Yet another says we shouldn’t talk about such traits (such as if Jesus had a bowel movement while on earth) because it’s rude and embarrassing. Others argue that Jesus wasn’t poor at all and Driscoll’s description of Jesus is heretical. What is Driscoll’s view? Driscoll describes the entire situation as:

 “Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro wrestling is real, find women who chew tobacco sexy, and eat a lot of Hot Pockets with their uncle-daddy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was often mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted the crazy story to cover the fact she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom. Jesus was adopted by a simple carpenter named Joseph and spent the first thirty years of his life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with his dad.”

My own concerns for the character of Mark Driscoll (I see some inconsistencies with how he acts and the pastoral requirements of 1 Timothy – but every pastor will struggle with this), his theology and concerns about Christ are dead on accurate. He states in his book Vintage Jesus that many American Christians, both liberal and conservative, have forgotten who Jesus was (and is). On the liberal side, His humanity is often emphasized, to the point that people forget that He was Holy and was God. On the conservative side, however, His humanity is neglected, often to the point that people forget that He was human just like us, with the same frailties. The purpose of Vintage Jesus is to show that Jesus was both completely God and completely man – thus his question on the mints – though a cheesy marketing ploy – is a very valid question to ask many people today. Continue reading