Jesus, a friend of sinners . . . whose friend are you? As recorded in Luke 7, Jesus frequently caught flack for hanging out with and befriending people who were not “religious” or ascribing to standards others perceived as absolutes. Criticisms came not just from religious “elites” but from rank and file followers and even from within his band of 12 closest disciples.
Allow me to back up for a moment and offer a few disclaimers. The term “sinner” was a common term in Jesus’ day but has lost popularity of usage today both inside and outside the church. So too the word “lost” is, well, getting “lost” in our vocabulary. I’m ok with that. I never liked the designation when I wasn’t a believer in Christ and I think in our present post-modern culture, folks disdain it even more. Non-believers don’t necessarily feel “lost,” and to them the term carries a bit of arrogance or presumption. I try to avoid that pitfall.
Our vocabulary is not the principal point of this article, though it plays a part in general. Relationships are where I am heading. We all can make excuses (and I do too) for not having time for, well, you name it. We prioritize our time by what we deem most important and if we aren’t careful, we govern our priorities without seeking any counsel from God. Guilty? As followers and purported image bearers of Jesus, we are compelled by Him to graciously engage “lostness.” There’s that word again. God mandates engaging “ lostness” through his word (Mt. 28:19-20) and Jesus exemplified it through his living example. Just read the gospels. 2 Corinthians 5 clarifies that we are now God’s message bearers. (Imagine that!)
The process for coming to faith is a continuum which is initiated and perpetuated by the Holy Spirit. Often we are invited to participate. One of the significant thresholds non-believers cross is moving from distrust to trusting in a Christian friend. Just because someone trusts you doesn’t necessarily follow that they are curious about Jesus, but it often is the stimulus that moves them from complacency to curiosity and then openness to life change. We can and should be that catalyst. But we will never be until we take initiatives to new friendships. God will direct you if you are willing to develop new friendships. Expand your interest in someone today. Think about it.