Jesus was criticized for eating with and befriending sinners who were ‘defiled’ while he was the supposed consecrated Teacher. Today we see the balance of Jesus’ example is found in loving and befriending everyone while holding close to an inner circle of faith…
10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”
The priests answered, “No.”
13 Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”
When the consecrated touches another object, does that object become consecrated? The answer is no. When a person comes into contact with an object which is defiled, does it become defiled? The answer is yes.
The lesson here is that consecration – being set apart by God for God – does not transfer from one to another.
Yet when we spend time with people or things or in places which are defiled, we can become defiled ourselves. To defile means to spoil or, in the case of something sacred, to desecrate.
We often believe that if we hang around with people who live unrighteous lives, they will become righteous. This is the idea of missionary friendships or missionary dating. There is some very healthy caution here for those of us who think this is a good strategy. The risk is that we will adopt their habits and not the other way around.
Of course, the example of Jesus is to invest time with such people: Jesus was criticized for eating with and befriending sinners. He was not brought down by them; rather, he transformed them through his power into new life. Many of these people were set apart by God through these interactions with the Lord.
So what gives? Are we to befriend ‘sinners’ or not?
The answer is found in the example of Jesus: befriend and serve the unrighteous and the sinners, and maintain your closest friends from within the faith. Jesus’ inner circle was not the rich young ruler who put his own wealth ahead of knowing God. It was not Pilate, who questioned whether truth even exists in the world. Jesus’ inner circle was Peter, James, and John.
The principle of being equally yoked comes into play here. We read in 2Corinthians 6:14-16, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? … Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” If you read the rest of Paul’s writing on this in 2Corinthians 6, you will see reference to not touching unclean things.
Being set apart (consecrated) to God means that we are to maintain inner circle fellowship with other believers, while following the example of Jesus in loving and befriending the world around us in our outer circle.
Count your friends and acquaintances. Are you putting yourself in a situation to be influenced or to influence? And who has your back and holds you accountable to living as the temple of God? A careful balance in relationships and influence is core to a consistent walk with Jesus our Lord…