Religious people do like to grumble, it seems.
“Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15:1-2)
There is a difference between religious people and Christ-followers. It seems the Pharisees depicted in Scripture were always grumbling and just being a thorn in Jesus’ side. They were the fundamentalists of that day, and their type is still with us.
Why were they upset? Because Jesus was hanging with some people deemed not up to the Pharisees’ religious standards. Christians today can still be criticized for spending time with people who don’t go to church and don’t act like those who do. If you are such a believer, don’t fret; you’re following Christ’s example.
Should we be different from non-believers? Of course, if those non-believers are doing things God has taught us we shouldn’t do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t spend time with them, enjoy their company, and allow them to become important parts of our lives.
It’s right to teach children and teenagers not to hang around with people who will be a bad influence because they are at a very impressionable age. But those of us who are adults and presumably less impressionable need to be more like Jesus and hang out with “sinners.”
We should, however, remember that Jesus spent much of his time with his disciples. We need the church, our fellow followers of Christ. There is no getting away from that truth.
When we follow Christ, we are more like Jesus, and we fall in love with people, even those who are different from us and possibly difficult to like. But we will also find that God has created some very special people who do not yet follow Christ, and we may find that many of them do not because of those “religious” folks in their midst who have grumbled away God’s love.