Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2
In this series of blogs, we are building on the principle that your life follows your values. We are exploring the lifestyle priorities that will cause us to live as witnesses for Jesus. Well, Jesus had an unmistakable lifestyle priority of spending relational time with non-religious people. That priority showed up in his actions. He was always hanging out with ‘sinners’.
Why do you think the Pharisees were not impressed with Jesus living this way (besides the fact that they were not impressed with Jesus most of the time)?
I’ll give it a go and say this:
The Pharisees were probably thinking, Jesus, you will get yourself ceremonially unclean by hanging out with the sinners—something you shouldn’t do as a Rabbi. Also, us religious people need to hang out with religious people ‘cause that’s how we roll.
Some of these thoughts can often run in our minds even in 2017 when we think about having friendships with non-Christians. We think that if we develop real friendships with worldly people we will get influenced negatively. Or we think we need to get our lives together and figure out every detail of theology and doctrine before we can go and be friends with people whose beliefs are different than ours.
But Jesus gave it a good go. He was called a ‘friend of sinners’. His time spent with these people was what led to most of his followers! It will be the same for you. You won’t find yourself helping people turn to Christ in faith if you aren’t spending relational time with them.
How did Jesus build these relationships?
- He loved them
Jesus crossed paths with people who had sinful lifestyles. If there was one person entitled to judging and accusing those people it was Jesus—the one without sin. And yet he didn’t do that – John 8:10-11
He instead loved them and spent time with them – Mark 10:21
If there’s one thing that we need to learn about how to be good friends of sinners it’s how to love. And that includes loving without any hidden motives, loving our friends even when they don’t want to come to church, loving them even after years have passed and they are still rejecting Jesus.
- He was okay with not being popular
Often times as Christians we can be focused on networking and getting to know that pastor and this pastor and that famous Christian worship leader—so much so that our friendships can:
Number 1: become about what we can get out of them
Number 2: become 100% made up of people who are Christians
Hanging out with sinners made Jesus very marginalized from the religious community. Yet Jesus wasn’t bothered by that. He kept going to parties and he kept reaching out to the poor, the sick, the abused, the sinners Luke 7:22
Why? Because Jesus wasn’t focused on becoming popular. He wasn’t interested in acquiring a name for himself in the religious community. He wasn’t concerned about how many new Instagram followers he was getting each day.
He was about loving people and being their friend even when it looked like he was surrounded by the wrong crew.
- Jesus was interested in giving
Have you ever noticed that Jesus was not ever interested in what he could get out of his interactions/friendships with people? Rather, he was focused on loving people and saving them from whatever they needed to be saved from? (accusers, corrupt lifestyle, illness etc.)
A good friend loves without judging, is there when needed, is more concerned with what he can give rather than what he receives. A good friend passes the test of time. A good friend has no hidden motives.
What kind of friend are you?
Jesus’ pattern was to open-heartedly meet people where they were and then help them move towards God. One of the great characteristics of his life was spending time with non-religious people, even though he caught major criticism for it. If we want to follow Jesus, then we must build this lifestyle priority into our lives too!
Witnessing Lifestyle Priority #2: Building real friendships with non-churched people