Our friends often shape our reputation. Certainly, our friends influence our behaviors and opinions. One of the traits I admired in Dr. Lee as a boy was that he chose his friends carefully. He was friendly with everyone, but close friends were hand picked. The boy being father of the man, this trait persists even today.
Jesus carefully selected twelve men to whom he entrusted the most precious calling, the evangelism of the entire world. The trait that ran through each of them, almost without fail, was faithfulness. Of course, there was one who he addressed directly as “friend” in Gethsemane who turned out to be faithless. Even knowing this, Jesus remained Judas’ friend.
We read of Jesus being referred to as a friend of publicans and sinners. Sinners. What kind of sinners? Were these white lie fibbers? Were they exaggerating fishermen? Harmless flirts? People who cheated on their taxes? What kind of sinners could call Jesus their friend?
The Bible calls Abraham the Friend of God. We are talking about an elite list of characters. Maybe Moses. Don’t forget David. Did you notice, these were imperfect men? Surely to be God’s friend you had to really have it together. Head and shoulders above mere mortals? But wait: Abraham, Moses, and David were very flawed men. And yet, God saw them as His friends.
I have noticed in my circle of friends, not one of them meet my criteria for absolute perfection. But on the other hand, I don’t satisfy my criteria for absolute perfection. If I can’t provide it, I cannot demand absolute perfection from my earthly friends. So, of necessity, there is a certain amount of easy forgiveness that I give and that I need to receive if our friendships are to persist. The distinction of absolute perfection is reserved for Jesus, the best friend I will ever have.
I have friends who drink alcohol, smoke pot, speak profanely at times, and a few who are Democrats. I have friends who have attained high levels of success and I have some friends who can’t even get out of their own way. I have friends who have abused their bodies until experiencing death at a very young age. I had a friend trying to get high, using Right Guard sprayed on a t-shirt, who died because she burned up her lungs at the tender age of about 12. I loved them every one.
And if I loved them, how can I express how much God loved them?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
Jesus, friend of sinners.
We see a list of sinful activities that will not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Cor. 6:9-10:
(9) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (10) Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
(11) And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
What a transformation! From unrighteousness into being hidden in Christ! All because Jesus is my friend. But more importantly because He was my friend before I was His friend.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Dying for someone is a huge step. Yet Jesus loved me and you so much that while we were yet sinners, He was such a friend that He gave His life for me … and you … and you.
Don’t get confused by your innate sense of worth or justice. There was nothing just about Jesus hanging on an old rugged cross to pay your sin debt. That was Jesus demonstrating that He is THE friend that sticks closer than a brother. You didn’t deserve it, nor did I. GRACE! GRACE! GRACE! Our Friend has saved us by His Grace, not by our sense of worthiness! You couldn’t do it! Only Jesus could bridge the gap and give his friends the opportunity for LIFE!
Jesus, friend of sinners. My friend. Your friend. Friend to the lowly and lost. Friend to the burned out drug abusers and the uncontrolled angry abusers of women and children. Jesus, the only friend of the degenerate and hopeless. Jesus, the friend of murderers and rapists and thieves. Jesus, friend to those from whom truth-telling has fled. Jesus, friend of sinners. The only hope of the world. But He is THE HOPE of all the world.
And no matter where you are today in your life, Jesus is your friend. Listen carefully: I didn’t say Jesus wants to be your friend. I said Jesus IS your friend.
In Luke 7 the Bible tells of a “righteous” man named Simon. He was happy to host Jesus to a meal at Simon’s home. Though Simon’s guest list only included the elite of Simon’s acquaintance, somehow this harlot, this fallen woman, this lady of the night slips past security and prostrates herself at the feet of Jesus. She just falls apart, weeping uncontrollably. Her tears are covering Jesus’ feet, while her hair embraces those same feet along with incessant kisses. Is that precious ointment whose aroma is filling this house? How did this woman get in here. And what is up with Jesus? If he were truly a prophet, like we thought, He would know what kind of woman was touching Him. What an outrage.
Jesus spoke to Simon announcing a message and Simon played along. A master had two debtors. One owed a lot and the other owed a little. The master forgave them both of their entire debt. Which one is going to love the master more?
Simon answered the question with the obvious reply. The one who was forgiven the most will love the most.
Jesus agreed. And that is why this friend of mine, this sinner loves me more than you do as demonstrated by her actions and your inaction.
Jesus, friend of sinners.
Why don’t we as the friends of Jesus begin to fill wherever we are right now with the aroma of praise? You don’t have to be perfect to praise Him. He IS your friend, no matter what you have done, no matter how shabbily you have treated Him, no matter how flawed you may be. You can never make Jesus stop loving you. You may throw away the blessings of communion with Christ. You may be wandering far from Jesus’ plans for your life. But you can never escape His love.
Is there someone reading this today who wants to come to know what friendship with Jesus really means? Just lift up you heart toward heaven and let your friend embrace you. Jesus, friend of sinners.