There is a popular sentiment that Jesus "hung out" with sinners and tax collectors. This was the same line that the religious leaders used to condemn Jesus. Many view this as a reason to assimilate with popular culture. Assimilation means that we become one with the culture. There is a huge difference between assimilation and association. Assimilation means when in Rome do as the Romans. Historically speaking that might mean drinking. participating in orgies, participating in homosexuality or whatever was popular at the time. It's the same as "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Well, no human may know what we did in Vegas but God certainly does. There are no secrets safe with Him. Association, on the other hand, means when in Rome stay true to who you are and do not compromise.
Jesus, my friends, did not assimilate. He infiltrated, he associated and he brought about radical change in the culture. He never tried to become a part of the culture. He told His disciples that they would be hated because of Him. He also told them that the world would not accept them because it did not accept Him. Jesus maintained the standard of holiness and even demanded that those who wished to follow Him pick up their own individual crosses and follow Him, forgoing their own personal desires.
As an example, Jesus asks the man who was ill for 38 years (see John 5) "Do you want to get well?"
He later say the man after healing Him and reminded the man not to sin any more lest something worst happen to him. This does not sound like someone who is trying to assimilate. If so, Jesus could have high-fived the man and went about His business, but Jesus realized that the man's condition was tied to his sin! Too often, Christians want to assimilate- to be in the world AND of the world AND of God. It does not work that way. We are trying to look and act like the world without maintaining our standards. I'm not advocating dressing a certain way (although modesty is always best) but thinking a certain way. Jesus was all about infiltrating and He did not condone sin in any way.
The question asked to this man could e asked to this generation of Christians. Do you want to get well? Or, would you rather continue excusing away your acceptance of sinful attitudes and lifestyles? Do you want to get well or is being "not far from the Kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34) good enough? Do you want to get well or are you comfortable with the "only human" excuse? Do you want to get well or are you comfortable just sitting by the pool?
I think a more appropriate question is, do you want to stay well? Paul says that he became "as" and "all things to all people so that by all means I might win some." (1 Cor 9:21-23) He also says that we cannot avoid sinners otherwise we would have to go out of the world. Avoiding sinners is not what I am advocating, avoiding sin is. If we compromise our beliefs to make sinners more comfortable then we may as well stay next to the pool. The goal is not a pharisaical rigidity or separation but rather continuing to live and abide by Christ's standards no matter who we are around. The culture should not be changing us, we should be changing it.
We must pray to be continually filled by the Spirit of God so that He can empower us against sin. We battle a dualistic nature and therefore if sin is present, the spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak. We must therefore be careful how far we tread into shark infested waters- and be sure to wear the lifejacket that we know as the Holy Spirit. Further, our motive ought to be the same as Paul's- not to blend but to win. I speak from experience because I am guilty of trying to placate sinners and not disturb them in their sinfulness. That is the wrong attitude. We should be asking anyone who will listen, do you want to get well?