If we decide to join Jesus in storming the gates of hell, we will find something surprising when we get there. We will find a ragtag band of prostitutes, alcoholics, drug-addicts, murderers, and thieves, dancing and singing and laughing with Jesus.
It is a strange sight there at the gates of hell, but it is the way of Jesus.
Joy and laughter in the face of darkness and despair is one of the best ways to turn back the night and light a candle in the dark.
Jesus dances with harlots, shares meals with tax-collectors, laughs at the jokes of murderers, and drinks with alcoholics.
Meanwhile, we look on with disapproval. We get offended. Doesn’t Jesus know what they’ve done? Doesn’t He know He is just encouraging them? Doesn’t He know how it looks to hang out with such people?
Yes, Jesus does know.
He knows exactly what it look like. It looks like the Kingdom of heaven. It looks like forgiveness. It looks like mercy. It looks like grace. Wherever Jesus goes, there is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal 5:22-23), and these are found with Jesus even when He is dancing with whores and killers at the gates of hell.
When we get upset at such disturbing divine behavior, we need only remind ourselves who it was that criticized Jesus for His choice of company. It was the self-righteous religious people who condemned Jesus for hanging out with tax-collectors, sinners, and prostitutes.
If we feel uncomfortable hanging out with such people, might it be that we are more like the Pharisees than we imagine?
What kind of holiness does the Western Church manifest today? To answer this, we need only ask: Are the prostitutes and tax collectors of our day attracted to us or repelled by us?
While there are wonderful examples of kingdom communities who attract, embrace, and transform those who are most judged and marginalized by society and religion today, on the whole today’s prostitutes and tax collectors steer as far away from Christians as they did the Pharisees in the first century.
Nothing could be a greater indictment of the modern Church than this (The Myth of a Christian Religion).
(See the video here by Tony Campolo about his birthday bash with Hawaiian Prostitutes.)