Jesus, The Friend Of Sinners

Jesus was infamous for associating with people whom the establishment considered disreputable. Jesus’ followers should do exactly the same even if that means attracting criticism. It may well be that churches that welcome homosexuals with genuine love will be criticised even by other, Bible-believing churches. That is part of the price of being faithful to Jesus. We must ask if we are willing to associate with homosexuals even if that attracts negativity. Matthew 11:19 19  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Also Luke 7:34) There are various examples of this behaviour. Having called Levi, Jesus went to a dinner in his home attended by many tax-collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17.) Jesus received anointing from the sinful woman in Simon’s house (Luke 7:36-39) and attracted the scorn of the Pharisees. He visited Zacchaeus’ home for a meal (Luke 19:1-10) and didn’t condemn the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). Friendship must mean sincere friendship. Clearly there was nothing fake about Jesus’ love for those on the margins of society. He cared for them. He had time for them. Their welfare was a genuine concern. He prioritised them. He forgave them. He also went looking for them. It wasn’t a case of being nice if a sinner happened to turn up. Jesus travelled around, going to village after village in order to connect with people, all of whom, actually, were sinners. He invited Himself to their homes (Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10) and accepted their invitations (Matthew’s party for tax collectors, Matthew 9:10-13; eating in the home of Simon the Pharisee where He was anointed by a sinful woman, Luke 7:36-50). In John 4 we are told that Jesus had to travel through Samaria. We are not told the reason but one possibility is that His objective was to meet the Samaritan woman at the well. If that was the motivation, it would be a remarkable example of crossing cultural and societal moral boundaries in order to minister to a woman with a very dubious past and present. Even if that wasn’t the reason, Jesus took the initiative in approaching that woman, contrary to the ethical practices of His day, and in starting the conversation. It has to be asked how actively the church is seeking out and befriending homosexuals, showing them extraordinary respect and love. But equally we must ask why Jesus associated with “tax-collectors and sinners”. It goes against everything else Jesus taught and modelled to think that He was endorsing their sin. It is blasphemous to suggest that a holy God will compromise with sin or approve sin. Sin is incompatible with the character of God. It was precisely because of His love for them that Jesus wanted sinners to repent and to be restored to fellowship with God. His friendship with sinners was consistent with His whole mission. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, see also Matthew 18:11) When Jesus was challenged about His relationships with sinners, He replied as follows. Mt 9:9-13 9  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  11  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  13  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (See also Luke 5:31-32; Mk 2:13-17) Jesus’ purpose was mission. His desire was to heal the sick; to save to lost. And note that He didn’t refer to these people as righteous but as “sinners”. He said they were sick. Someone might object that those labelled “sinners” were only sinner in the eyes of those who despised them. No, they were actually sinners. All people are sinners and these people were too. They were just more likely to understand that than the religious leaders. Prostitutes were (and are) sinners. Tax-collectors today are not sinners by virtue of their job (although they, like everyone else, are still sinners.) But tax-collectors in Jesus’ day were guilty of greed and extortion. They were sinners. So, what should we say about the church? If the church is to be like Christ, then it must be the friend of sinners. It must sacrifice its reputation (if necessary) and its time and resources, to care for sinners. Those that don’t, are sinning. But equally, if it is to be like Jesus, the church’s deepest desire must be that those sinners come to repentance and find life and forgiveness in Jesus. On the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be in the world but not of the world. John 17:15-19 15  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  18  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  19  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. Jesus was explicit that He was not asking the Father to take the disciples out of the world. On the contrary, Christians are sent into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. Jesus’ purpose is mission. That requires mixing with sinners. But equally, Jesus prayed that they were not of the world and he prayed for God to protect them from the evil one. Christians are not of the world in the sense that we don’t really belong here and we certainly are not to live by the values of the world. Christians are to be very different – a holy people who model an alternative allegiance and an alternative way of life. Our citizenship is in heaven, but we are intentionally commissioned to be here and to be counter-cultural for the sake of the world. The best friend of a sinner is not the fellow sinner who encourages more sin but the person who chooses to love the sinner and desires that he/she will find forgiveness in Jesus and will live a life dedicated to God. That is what Jesus modelled.

Related pages

© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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Jesus, The Friend Of

Sinners

Jesus was infamous for associating with people whom the establishment considered disreputable. Jesus’ followers should do exactly the same even if that means attracting criticism. It may well be that churches that welcome homosexuals with genuine love will be criticised even by other, Bible-believing churches. That is part of the price of being faithful to Jesus. We must ask if we are willing to associate with homosexuals even if that attracts negativity. Matthew 11:19 19  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Also Luke 7:34) There are various examples of this behaviour. Having called Levi, Jesus went to a dinner in his home attended by many tax-collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17.) Jesus received anointing from the sinful woman in Simon’s house (Luke 7:36-39) and attracted the scorn of the Pharisees. He visited Zacchaeus’ home for a meal (Luke 19:1-10) and didn’t condemn the adulterous woman (John 8:1- 11). Friendship must mean sincere friendship. Clearly there was nothing fake about Jesus’ love for those on the margins of society. He cared for them. He had time for them. Their welfare was a genuine concern. He prioritised them. He forgave them. He also went looking for them. It wasn’t a case of being nice if a sinner happened to turn up. Jesus travelled around, going to village after village in order to connect with people, all of whom, actually, were sinners. He invited Himself to their homes (Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10) and accepted their invitations (Matthew’s party for tax collectors, Matthew 9:10-13; eating in the home of Simon the Pharisee where He was anointed by a sinful woman, Luke 7:36-50). In John 4 we are told that Jesus had to travel through Samaria. We are not told the reason but one possibility is that His objective was to meet the Samaritan woman at the well. If that was the motivation, it would be a remarkable example of crossing cultural and societal moral boundaries in order to minister to a woman with a very dubious past and present. Even if that wasn’t the reason, Jesus took the initiative in approaching that woman, contrary to the ethical practices of His day, and in starting the conversation. It has to be asked how actively the church is seeking out and befriending homosexuals, showing them extraordinary respect and love. But equally we must ask why Jesus associated with “tax-collectors and sinners”. It goes against everything else Jesus taught and modelled to think that He was endorsing their sin. It is blasphemous to suggest that a holy God will compromise with sin or approve sin. Sin is incompatible with the character of God. It was precisely because of His love for them that Jesus wanted sinners to repent and to be restored to fellowship with God. His friendship with sinners was consistent with His whole mission. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, see also Matthew 18:11) When Jesus was challenged about His relationships with sinners, He replied as follows. Mt 9:9-13 9  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  11  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  13  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (See also Luke 5:31-32; Mk 2:13-17) Jesus’ purpose was mission. His desire was to heal the sick; to save to lost. And note that He didn’t refer to these people as righteous but as “sinners”. He said they were sick. Someone might object that those labelled “sinners” were only sinner in the eyes of those who despised them. No, they were actually sinners. All people are sinners and these people were too. They were just more likely to understand that than the religious leaders. Prostitutes were (and are) sinners. Tax- collectors today are not sinners by virtue of their job (although they, like everyone else, are still sinners.) But tax-collectors in Jesus’ day were guilty of greed and extortion. They were sinners. So, what should we say about the church? If the church is to be like Christ, then it must be the friend of sinners. It must sacrifice its reputation (if necessary) and its time and resources, to care for sinners. Those that don’t, are sinning. But equally, if it is to be like Jesus, the church’s deepest desire must be that those sinners come to repentance and find life and forgiveness in Jesus. On the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be in the world but not of the world. John 17:15-19 15  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17   Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  18  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  19  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. Jesus was explicit that He was not asking the Father to take the disciples out of the world. On the contrary, Christians are sent into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. Jesus’ purpose is mission. That requires mixing with sinners. But equally, Jesus prayed that they were not of the world and he prayed for God to protect them from the evil one. Christians are not of the world in the sense that we don’t really belong here and we certainly are not to live by the values of the world. Christians are to be very different – a holy people who model an alternative allegiance and an alternative way of life. Our citizenship is in heaven, but we are intentionally commissioned to be here and to be counter-cultural for the sake of the world. The best friend of a sinner is not the fellow sinner who encourages more sin but the person who chooses to love the sinner and desires that he/she will find forgiveness in Jesus and will live a life dedicated to God. That is what Jesus modelled.

Related pages

© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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