Friendship. The word evokes so many feelings. Feelings of coziness and security. Friends are people we know are there for us. When hard times come, we may learn who our friends really are as people we thought were friends flee the disarray in our lives. We thought they loved us, but apparently not. As we lose our dignity in a whirl of pain in this world of pain, they flee from our presence to maintain a semblance of their own.
Over the last month, I have been pondering how I can become a better friend. Specifically I have pondered how I can become a better friend of sinners. Frankly, I am jealous of Jesus’ popularity among them. I want them to like me too!
What exactly was it that drew sinners to Jesus? What about Him made them want to be around Him? It certainly wasn’t because He did what they did. He never attended their orgies or partnered with them in crime. He never cursed the name of God or drowned His emotions in alcohol. He never stole by requiring exorbitant taxes and pocketing his own share before giving the emperor his. He never once protected Himself at the expense of the welfare of others.
He was perfect. Exactly righteous in all His judgments. He was selfless, which I have been coming to learn means that He did not protect Himself.
I like to protect myself. When I invite a new friend into my social circles, I wonder if the people around me will judge me based on what they think of my friend. Jesus wasn’t like that. He wasn’t worried about His reputation with the Pharisees. Often I am. He never didn’t love people because He was afraid people wouldn’t like Him if He did.
I do it a lot. I choose myself and my superficiality over the good of those around me. I choose fear and not love. Jesus wasn’t like that.
I want to be the kind of person with whom sinners feel safe even while I am able to encourage them to “Go, and sin no more”. I want them to feel safe with me because they know I will not condemn them. Jesus didn’t condemn sinners; He freed them from condemnation.
Recently I found myself caught in a tough spot in a conversation. I was with someone with whom I wanted to maintain a pleasant relationship. No matter what this person was going to be in my life for awhile. I didn’t want them to judge me as a self-righteous jerk.
We ventured into the area of faith. Then my friend set me up. Did I believe Jesus was the only way or were there many ways to God? He acted like he believed there were many. I was trapped, but I couldn’t lie. “I’m more of a “Jesus is the only way” kind of person,” I said. Turns out so was he. Then we started to talk about life for real. Sometimes people are just scared, and we have to put our own comfort on the line for the sake of truth. There can be no experience of grace without truth.
It has taken me awhile to learn that. I find safety in truth. I find no safety in a lie that says I do not need grace. My confidence is found in knowing God has plenty of grace to cover all my sin and then some. Thank you, Jesus!
It’s what Jesus had. Perfect grace and truth. He didn’t tell the sinners to keep sinning. He didn’t smile, wink and say, “Good job! Way to go! Live it up while you can.” No, He said, “Go, and sin no more!”
He didn’t condemn sinners; He freed them.
The Pharisees had a much different response. They said, “Ew, gross! Stay away from me! What is wrong with you anyway? Yuck!”
Jesus said, “Come to Me.”
I want to be like Jesus. I want sinners to like being around me. I want to love without self-protection and egotism. I don’t want to worry about my reputation. Regardless of what the self-righteous who surround me may think, I want to say, “Come.”
Because where sin abounds, grace abounds so much the more!