Jesus and the Bars

from the Scholars Corner (used by permission)

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Matt. 9: 12 & 13.

Why did Jesus go to bars? I mean, effectively, that is what he did. He was known to associate with tax collectors and prostitutes; and he was called a drunkard and a glutton. I don’t think he gained that reputation because he was always going to Wednesday night prayer meetings; rather, he seemed to frequent other spots. He seemed to always be showing up in unlikely places for a “religious” person, like parties and banquets. And it made the “church going” people of his day furious. So why do you think he kept going to bars?

Well, why does anyone go to a bar? And why do people join the Elks club? I think I know why. A bar or a club is one place you can go where you don’t have to pretend you are better than you are. You can have five failed marriages, and the man next to you at the bar won’t judge you. He’ll just hold out his hand to you and welcome you as a friend. You can also use language that comes naturally to you, and no one will look at you twice. And if you aren’t wearing nice clothes no one will even notice. A bar is a place where you can be honest with all your failures and still be accepted. Funny, that’s what I thought church was supposed to be.

So, why did Jesus go to bars? Because it was the one place he was welcomed and received. He didn’t judge the people, and they didn’t judge him. He was able to have fellowship there. But you notice just about every time he went to church, he got thrown out! Or worse, somebody tried to stone him or throw him over a cliff! He was not welcome in synagogues. And Jesus went where he was welcome.

The religious people, for the most part, didn’t want anything to do with him. They didn’t want him in their churches. And above all, they didn’t want him to bring those bums, criminals, and loose women with him into the church, because the “church going” folk were afraid these outcasts might stain the carpet or dirty the pews. So, because Jesus’ friends weren’t welcome in the churches, Jesus didn’t feel at home there either.

It is not that Jesus wanted people to be failures. He was in the business of rebuilding broken lives. But in order to rebuild, people have to know they are broken. And they’ve got to have someplace to go where they can admit their need. We all need that. We need a place to go where people will not ridicule us for our failures and our weakness, but will love us and accept us instead; someplace where people will say, “it’s okay.” And it seems, even today, that you can be more honest with your failures in a bar than in a church. That’s sad, and I know that is not what God intended. But I guess that is why Jesus felt at home in a bar and avoided places like church, where everyone has to pretend to be better than he is.

I can only wonder, where would Jesus go today?<>