31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
Have you ever felt that, no matter what you do, people are just not willing to give the gospel you present a fair hearing? Does it ever seem to you that you cannot be holy enough or laid-back enough or cool enough or brainy enough or whatever they seem to want enough to get them to take a fair look at Jesus? Guess what: This is not a new thing.
Jesus pointed out that the generation around him simply was not going to at all be satisfied with the people God sent them. John the Baptist came from God. John was very strict, not drinking wine and not feasting. The religious people of John’s day said that John had a demon. They thought that nobody could actually live the way John lived without something being wrong. He was over-the-top, and that even for the Jews.
Then comes Jesus to the people. Jesus was, according to this passage, far more laid back than John. Jesus drank wine and ate at feasts. The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunk. Now, Jesus never overate or drank too much—he never sinned—but the religious leaders looked for some way to criticize him.
Think about this point as it might apply to your particular style of evangelism. Are you thinking that you will win the lost to Christ if only you hang out with them and do what they do? Are you thinking that taking an interest in their favorite sport or having a couple of beers with the guys after work will open up your opportunity to witness?
Or perhaps it is the other way. Are you thinking that you are going to live a life of such austerity, such outward holiness, such blatant religious fervor that the lost will not be able to help but take notice of you. Maybe you will shake your head at them when they waste time at a ballgame or watching TV. Maybe you will turn up your nose at them when they order a beer. Maybe you will show them your piety by grimacing at their foul language or poor choices in clothing.
What we should learn from Jesus is that neither of these two approaches will win anybody to Christ. The hearts of the lost are dead to God (Ephesians 2:1-3). Those hearts are always going to find a way to criticize your actions. If you are laid back, they will call you a hypocrite, saying you’re just like everybody else. If you are too good, they will call you judgmental, holier-than-thou, and they will declare that you make them uncomfortable. In either case, they may be right about you. Or, in either case, they may just be looking for a way to get out of facing the command of God to believe in Jesus.
So, what do we do? We live for Jesus as God would have us live. If that means that you are free to be a little more laid back while not crossing any biblical lines into sin, then great—live to the glory of God. If that means that you are a little more reserved as fits your bent and your understanding of the Scripture, great—live to the glory of God. Live as God would have you live, and as you live, as you go, tell others about Jesus. Present the true Jesus and the true gospel to the lost in plain speech, pray, and leave the results to God. Only God can bring the dead to life. Only God, not your clever lifestyle choices, will save a soul.
By the way, I’m not here trying to write against contextualization. Speak in terms that your friends can understand. Try not to cloud their perception of Jesus by using terms that are not central to the gospel. Try not to make them think that Christianity is about any commands that are not clearly part of the gospel. Do what you can to remove superficial hurdles between them and their thinking about the gospel. But do not think that your choosing to dress like them or not like them, to act like them or not like them, to live near them or not near them will have anything to do with changing their hearts. God will change hearts. We need to live to his glory and be sure that we share a very real, very clear gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.