When you stop and think about it, Jesus is described, or named, in many different ways in the Bible; King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Son of Man, Good Shepherd, the Word. If we wanted to take the time, we could name dozens more. In my devotions this week, I have been reading through Matthew. In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus is described in yet another way; friend of sinners. It would be hard to say one name by which Jesus is known is better than another. They all depict something important about him. But I think this might be my new favorite. Jesus, FRIEND OF SINNERS.
I like that name for several reasons. Selfishly, I suppose I like the name because that’s me. I’m a sinner. It’s hard to imagine that Jesus, son of God, could love me, that he would want to be my friend. I’m not going to lie. That’s kind of awesome. But I also like this name because it reminds us of what Jesus was all about. Jesus became known for saying things like:
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" and “I have come to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus came for sinners. He came for the lost and the broken.
But I think the name not only reminds us of who Jesus is. I believe as Christ followers, it is a reminder of who we are meant to be. We are to be a friend of sinners. We are to seek the lost and point them to Jesus, that they may be saved. One of the things I fear in my own life is that I will become so immersed in church culture that I am no longer a friend of sinners. I have seen this happen to long time Christ followers, often for one of two reasons. Either it happens because we become increasingly uncomfortable with “sinners” whose language, behavior or values are not very Christ-like. Or we simply get to a place where everyone we know is already a Christ follower. We just have no “sinner” friends.
There are few things in life that weigh more heavily upon me than the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of the people in our community have no relationship with Jesus Christ. Estimates for our region say that 80% or more of adults have no active relationship with Christ. The numbers for our young people are even more heart breaking. Research tells us that 97% of high school students have no faith relationship with Jesus. Many of these people are our friends, our neighbors or even family members. My hearts desire is that we would do whatever we can, whatever it takes, to reach the lost with the hope of the gospel. That may not be easy at times. But it matters. For these people, eternity weighs in the balance.
My hope for us as a church is that we can be a place that invites and lovingly welcomes those who are far from Jesus. Together, we can do this. We can bring healing to the broken, hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness. We can be a friend of sinners.
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we continue our series “Got Joy?”
BTW, Casting Crowns does a great song by the title Jesus Friend of Sinners. Check it out here.