Are You A Friend of Sinners?



“Telling people about Jesus is easier than living like him, but the latter will lead us to the cross. When we befriend those outside of the Church walls, we have to actually live out this whole Christian thing, not just talk about it.”[1]

I have often thought that Christians seem to become abrasive in “sharing the Gospel” out of motivation not to be ashamed of the Gospel. We don’t want God to be ashamed of us by being ashamed to share the Gospel, but that motivation, alone, isn’t what sharing the Gospel is all about.

We don’t earn our way to heaven by sharing the Gospel. Salvation is a gift.[2] We can’t earn salvation by sharing the Gospel.

Rather, sharing the Gospel should be the natural extension of who we are, born again as children of God, flowing out of the new life that is budding and growing within us.[3] Sharing the Gospel should be an extension of our lives as we walk with God – not simply something we say.

God is love.[4] Therefore, as children of God, having the lifeblood of God coursing through us, sharing the Gospel should be an expression of that love that He has for us and others.

Too often, it seems, that the stands we take for God evidence something other than love. It comes across as fighting to maintain political and cultural power and position. Or it seems like notching our belts in the category of “I am not ashamed”. Or, like the Pharisees that Jesus always confronted, it resembles self-righteousness.

To be sure, none of us, myself included, are immune from these vestiges of the flesh that live on and die hard within us. So, we need to be uncompromising and unrelenting – like Israelites were instructed as they entered the promised land to drive out the inhabitants – to expose and root out the sin that still lives within us.

Our example, of course, is Jesus, who demonstrated in his life the very nature of God in human form.[5] Jesus got the greatest push back from religious people, but he was a “friend of sinners”, as the great hymn acknowledges.[6] That phrase, friend of sinners, comes from an accusation leveled at Jesus by the religious leaders.

I wonder what influence Christians might have if we were more often called friends of sinners, rather than not ashamed of the Gospel?

The writer of the article from which the quotation at the beginning of this article was taken asks, “Wouldn’t it be an honor to have the reputation as a ‘friend of sinners?’”

Not that we should be ashamed of the Gospel! It is the power of God for salvation![7] But our motivation shouldn’t be driven by a concern about our own salvation. Our motivation should be the love that flows from God to us and the world.

The author of article says it in simple, straightforward terms:  “Jesus cares about those across the street and so should we.” Jesus walked where people lived. He engaged people on their own turf. He was welcomed into their homes.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)

Have you ever noticed that Jesus found his disciples not in the Temple? Jesus called his disciples out from the fringes.

Jesus wasn’t aloof. He was approachable. He was welcomed into peoples’ homes. He engaged them where they lived.

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:10-13)

Reclining and eating with people is intimate. Jesus was intimate with people. He was intimate with the nonreligious people, regular people, the rough and tumble people, people that polite, religious types might be tempted to avoid.

Do we live in a way that we are intimate with non-Christians? Do we know our neighbors? Do we know them well enough that they would invite us into their homes? Would we want to go if they did?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] If Your Friends Are All Christians, You’re Missing the Point of Following Jesus, by Andrew Voigt, Relevant Magazine (April 29, 2019)

[2] Ephesians 2:8-8 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV))

[3] Ephesians 2:10 (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV))

[4] 1 John 4:7-21 (“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” ( ESV))

[5] Hebrews 1:1-3 (“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….” (ESV))

[6] Jesus! What A Friend for Sinners! Words by John Chapman (1910) (See Mark 2:13-17)

[7] Romans 1:16 (“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (ESV))

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian, Evangelism, Gospel, Jesus

Tags: ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Comments are welcomed

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: