BE A FRIEND OF SINNERS!
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” —Luke 5:27-32
Is this the pattern we follow when someone responds to Jesus to follow Him? Matthew responded to follow Jesus and the first thing he does is gathers all his peer friends together in the presence of Jesus. Can you imagine if this was the typical action of those responding to Jesus? Think of how the gospel would be heard by many!
Do we make the mistake of encouraging those who decide to follow Jesus away from their friends and peers? Of course there is the balance of not being yoked with them (II Corinthians 6:14), but Paul said “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (I Corinthians 5:9-11). We are to associate with the lost and not isolate from the lost.
The longer a person is following Jesus the greater tendency there is for being around those who know Jesus and a lesser tendency for being around the lost if we do not keep the biblical focus. It is more comfortable being around those following Jesus where we are accepted. Being around the lost and communicating the gospel to them will surely bring about rejection of that message, but that does not alleviate the responsibility we have to bring the gospel to them. This is expected of us (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). To not do so is disobedience.
Jesus gave us the example and was called the “friend of sinners.” How fortunate are we that He is? Otherwise you and I would not have heard the gospel from those who follow Jesus’ example. Not let us continue following that example to be a friend of sinners—- for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:3-15). Oh, that we would have beautiful feet!
Dear Father may I be a “friend of sinners” knowing that is where I came from before You drew me to Jesus. Be please to work in and through me to draw others to Yourself. May this be so in the power of Your Holy Spirit and in the authority of Jesus. So be it!