Sinful enough for the Friend of sinners

Browsing through some blogs and church web sites this past week, I was struck by this phrase on a banner:

                                           “sinful enough for the friend of sinners”

 It just sort of sat there, naked, unadorned…and open to interpretation. 

Is it “sinful enough for the friend of sinners!”

                        I think not; that would too easily celebrate licentiousness and make  holiness a gauzy ethical memory.

Or perhaps it’s “sinful enough for the friend of sinners?”

                        Again, no, for it is weighted with the notion that that relationship is only for certain really bad people (usually somebody else who hates cats, is politically liberal, isn’t Southern and doesn’t attend church) 

I think they got it right: “sinful enough for the friend of sinners”. Period.

                        It’s more like a statement of fact. A description that applies to everyone who  happens by.

 Isn’t it true that everyone can be described as “sinful”? It is on our pride, and our first impulse is to push back against that description.  But when we compare ourselves for an instant against a God who is blazingly holy, we understand that

“None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one….for there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:11-12, 22-23) 

Let me press on that a little more.  We usually apply the above verses to people who have not come to a relationship with God at all, and almost exempt those who have trusted Christ.  But John writes “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…whoever says ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him.”  (1 John 1:8; 2:4) 

We are, all of us –religious and irreligious, Christian and non- Christian, believer and agnostic—sinners. That’s who we are. I wish it weren’t so.  But honesty and integrity demands we confess: every day, sinner is just who we are. 

But here’s where the gospel shows up.   Jesus Christ is a “friend of sinners”.  

The people who called Him that didn’t see it as a compliment.  They practically spat the words, because their religious sensibilities were so offended by Jesus’ hanging out with the religiously unacceptable.  (Lk. 7:34) He did it all the time—at weddings or parties, by a well at mid-day and in the city square with shamed women, at lunch with a despised scoundrel tax collector or among tombs with a demon-possessed lunatic. Proximity to sinners just didn’t sit well with them. It didn’t sit well because they didn’t realize that they were soul-sick and broken sinners, too.  Their sin was just cloaked by religious words and fake holiness.  

And still, Jesus would be their friend, too.  Because Jesus is a friend of sinners. 

Friend is such a beautiful word, isn’t it? Friends come alongside to share life with you.  They listen to you… and for you.  They accept your unique wonder and weirdness. They laugh and cry with you. They bring comfort to your pain.  They embrace delight with you.  They share their strength when you are weak.  They offer their perspective when you’re blind to the moment, their joy when you despair, their faith when you doubt, their reminder when you forget who, or Whose, you are. Friends forgive when you screw it up, protect when you’re vulnerable, and stay when others leave. Friends love outrageously, generously, mercifully and constantly.

And Jesus is a friend of sinners, like you and me. 

How much sin does it take to have a Friend like that?  Not much…just any sin that has marked you today, or in the past hour, or the past minute. Any sin of thought, attitude, action, character, relationship qualifies as enough

 So, my sin-full companions, though our tendency is to run away from Jesus and hide behind our religion, join me in running to Jesus.  This is His gospel, our gospel, issuing from a bloody cross and an empty tomb.  It is this friendship that transforms,  wooing us from sin to holiness, from fugitive running to settled rest.  It is this Friend who loves and woos and transforms us.  Why?  We are, all of us, 

                               “sinful enough for the friend of sinners”


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