It's inevitable. I post something on social media that challenges the status quo of post-modern relativism, and someone comments something along the lines of, "But Jesus never excluded anyone!" or "Labeling people is wrong!" or "Jesus promoted tolerance!" When I hear claims like this, I often wonder if the commenter read the same thing I did in Matthew's gospel that morning.
If you get all your information about Jesus from second-hand sources like devotionals, popular speakers, blogs, memes, tweets, and Facebook posts, you may find yourself a bit uncomfortable when you encounter the actual Jesus of the New Testament. If you only rely on social media to tell you who Jesus is, you might find yourself praying to a New Age Jewish hippie guru who sings Strawberry Fields Forever while demanding nothing of the super cool sinners He so loves to hang out with, and accepting everyone just as they are—except those nasty Pharisees of course. (Who just so happen to represent everyone who might disagree with whatever agenda is being peddled in the post.)
But this is not an accurate picture of the real Jesus. The Jesus of history is arguably one of the most divisive people who has ever lived.
In fact, He described His purpose like this: "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12:51). He went on to predict that even families would be divided against each other because of Him. He said in Matthew's gospel, "I didn't come to bring peace but a sword" (10:34).
He didn't mince words, and He wasn't afraid to address people's pet sins.
After all, we're talking about the One who will eventually separate people into two groups: sheep and goats. (Talk about labels!) In fact, Jesus will return to judge every single person who has ever lived...even you and me.
Did Jesus label people?
I recently found a very helpful article that lists the labels Jesus used. Here are some of them:
Enemies (Matthew 5:44)
Pagans (Matthew 5:47)
Devil (John 6:70)
Robbers (John 10:8)
Hypocrites (Matthew 6:2)
Thieves (Matthew 6:20)
Sinful generation (Mark 8:38)
Adulterous generation (Mark 8:38)
Dogs (Matthew 7:6)
Pigs (Matthew 7:6)
Evil man (Luke 6:45)
Unbelieving (Luke 9:41)
Perverse (Luke 9:41)
Foolish people (Luke 11:39)
False prophets (Matthew 7:15)
Dead (Matthew 8:22)
Unclean (Mark 7:23)
Wolves (Matthew 10:16)
Blind guides (Matthew 15:14)
Satan (Matthew 16:24)
Perverse generation (Matthew 17:17)
Murderers (Matthew 22:7)
Whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27)
Serpents (Matthew 23:27)
Brood of vipers (Matthew 23:33)
Cursed (Matthew 25:41)
Did Jesus exclude people?
In Matthew 21:12-17 and John 2:13-22, Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple for making God's house a "den of robbers." In John's account, he used a handmade whip and also turned over their tables.
In Luke 10, Jesus condemned three entire cities to hell. He pronounced "Woe" upon the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, and explained that the day of judgment will be more tolerable for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (famously destroyed by fire from heaven for their immorality and their blatant rejection of God's ways) than it will be for them.
In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus explains that anyone who does not do the will of His Father will be excluded with these words: "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness."
When considering the exclusive nature of Jesus, we can't ignore the book of Revelation. In His letter to the church at Thyatira in chapter 2, He actually criticized the church for the sin of tolerance. They were "tolerating" the false prophetess Jezebel, and He went on to pronounce judgment on her.
The bottom line....
Of course, this is just one aspect of who Jesus is. Jesus is unapologetically intolerant of sin, but He is all-inclusive in His offer of salvation for those who repent and put their faith in Him. It's important that we understand Jesus the way the Bible actually presents Him, and not in a caricatured or myopic way. He was divisive and exclusive—but He was also the most compassionate, selfless, and truthful person to ever walk the earth.
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