Monday, September 21, 2015

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

The other night, I had a dream—my family and I were leaving for a spontaneous weekend getaway and as we were loading the car, we all realized that no one had made arrangements to take care of the dog while we were away. Without a moment’s hesitation I said, “No problem, we’ll stop by my friend C___’s place and drop off the dog on our way out of town.” Down deep, even in my sleep, I know that if I had a dog and needed someone to take care of it on the spur of the moment, this particular friend would be there for me without hesitation.

God has gifted me with so many good and loving friends, I am almost embarrassed at how rich and full my life is. These people, for some reason I cannot fathom, enjoy being with me. They care about and for me. They share their lives with me. They enrich my life, enhance my faith, and fill my heart with precious memories. These people are all so very different. Some are outgoing and spontaneous, others quiet reservoirs of grace and strength, and still others somewhere in between. The one thing they all have in common is that they all willingly share their busy, messy lives with me. We talk and listen to each other. We laugh and cry together. We share in our hopes and disappointments with each other. They influence me and I influence them. That’s what friends do.

Here is a bold statement:  Jesus is my friend. He’s my best friend. He gave his life for me and rose from the dead to bring me everlasting life with him. He pursued me and loved me and was patient with me. He wooed me and won me with his unwavering love. How can I say this with such confidence?

The Bible tells us that Jesus is a “Friend of Sinners.”  He ate and drank with them. He talked and listened to them and they him. They laughed and cried together. They shared their hopes and disappointments with each other. Actually it was the religious people of the time, we are told, who called him Friend of Sinners to discredit and shame him. They wouldn’t be caught dead on the same side of the street as these sinners and tried to imply that by hanging out with sinners, Jesus was just as undesirable and sinful as the sinners he befriended. But he wasn’t sinful and he was only undesirable to those who unfortunately couldn’t see their own sinfulness under the self-righteousness persona they paraded through the temple and in town.

My prayer is that I will aspire to be the kind of friend Jesus was then to the tax collectors, prostitutes, the blind and the lame, the poor and unfortunate, and the regular people who were just trying to live life as best they could. I want to be the kind of friend Jesus is now to me. He said that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend. I may never be asked to give up my life for someone else, but I most certainly will be expected to give of myself wholly, with love and grace as he does. I’m not always going to get it right (remember I’m a sinner) but I know that his grace and forgiveness are there waiting for me when I need it.

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