Why be a “friend of sinners” if people aren’t LOST? I’m looking forward to leading a group of young people at Dayspring Camp in Ironton, Mo., through a study of friendship evangelism. We’ve noticed in our first session that we need a theology of lostness so we understand and act on our mission of being a friend of sinners, like Jesus was (Mt. 11:19). But we also need —
Session #2- A Theology of FRIENDSHIP!
Can we talk? Most of us don’t have a clue about real friendship! The late humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “I read the book How to Be Your Own Best Friend, went out and gained thirty pounds, and haven’t trusted myself since!”
The Christian environment often encourages new believers (either overtly or covertly) not to be friends of sinners. We surround ourselves with Christian music, Christian wallpaper, and eat only Christian cookies — and we wonder why fewer and fewer lost people are coming to Christ!
The Bible says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24). Other translations have quite a different take on this verse, such as the NIV which says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
At any rate, to be a friend involves a variety of elements: approachability, listening, confidentiality. The Lord Jesus was “a friend of sinners.” He listened to questions, He spent time with the lost, He fed them! Some of us have only conditional friendships with sinners (“Look, I’ll give you six months. If you don’t trust Christ by then, I’m moving on to someone else!”).
But how do we becomes friends of sinners without doing what they do? Without compromising our Christian convictions? We look to the Savior as our example!
We read in Matthew 11 that the religious leaders of Israel criticized John the Baptist for his frugality (he didn’t care about fashion or food) and Jesus for His indulgence (accusing Him of gluttony and drunkenness). For the Lord Jesus to be a friend of sinners meant eating and drinking with sinners, but not to excess. Most of us bring any hope of a friendship with sinners to a screeching halt by insisting on praying for our meal!
In a subsequent post, we’ll talk about intentional living and learning to listen to the stories of our sinner-friends. The challenge today is — look for opportunities to become a solid friend of sinners! Spend time with them. Eat with them. And pray for them! (to be continued)