We are talking about how we Jesus-followers have a great deal to learn — and to practice — about being a friend of sinners like Jesus was. Matthew 11 is clear that Jesus was such a friend. He was charged with three offenses by His contemporary culture: being a drunkard, being a glutton, and being a friend of sinners.
Because drunkenness and gluttony are sins, Jesus obviously did not drink or eat to excess. But being a friend of sinners was not a sin. Oh, sure in the minds of His critics hobnobbing with whores and hanging out with Herod’s tax agents was abominable. But Jesus defends His association with the sick and the lost, especially as He tells the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (a story told specifically because, as we read in the first two verses, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”)
But, wait a minute! Isn’t hanging out with “sinners” THE sin in many Christian circles? One study shows that a new convert will lose (= is expected to lose) all his non-Christian friends within the first year of his new life in Jesus. I wonder how such a thing happens?
The assumption is that a new believer will spend all of his social time with the family of God. He or she might be “discipled” in basic Bible study and prayer, but who helps that new convert learn to maintain his or her relationships with those not yet in God’s family? Who teaches that believer how to pray for their lost friends, to really listen hard to their problems, to be ready to share (even a little bit) of their “testimony”? If not proclaimed out loud, it seems to be a subtle expectation that those unsaved friends will be replaced by new relationships. (to be continued)