If You’re Not a ‘Friend of Sinners’, You’re Missing the Point of Following Jesus

No matter your faith, ethos, or worldview, one of the most tragic results of the fallen human condition is disconnectedness, even within Christianity. Whether you grew up in the Church or in an agnostic household, many of us are raised to other-ize those who believe differently.

The common connotation for such exclusivity is called “the bubble.” While it is important to surround ourselves with those who walk the same spiritual journey, we often miss out on some of the most rewarding friendships when we step into relationship with people who believe differently.

In a bubble-oriented Christian life, befriending fellow Christians is acceptable while being a friend to those outside the faith is considered fraternizing with “the world”. We are such good truth-twisters with our spiritualisms. What the Scriptures often meant by “the world” was the self-righteous religious community, not the tax collectors and the “unclean.” We have warped “the world” into meaning alternative culture and “secular” entertainment, but that’s not “the world” Jesus took issue with in the Scriptures. It’s easier to see a punk kid as “worldy” than the self-righteous person in the pew each Sunday morning. It’s often the wolf in sheep’s clothing that we ignore.

Jesus didn’t join in the debauchery of those he befriended outside of religious circles, but he didn’t adhere to the self-righteous zealots, either. If you read the Gospels and examine who Jesus spent time with, He was eclectic in the company He kept, almost never with the same group more than once.

Some Christians might argue: “Jesus wasn’t friends with sinners just to be friends; He was there to share the Gospel with them. He wasn’t trying to be their friend.” Really? If you read the Gospels closely, Jesus never said, “Become friends with people to make converts. If you don’t share the Gospel, and they don’t accept me into their hearts, then stop hanging out with them.” Instead, Jesus’ affiliation with non-believers actually had quite the scandalous reputation. Luke 7: 34 reads, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Christianity is more palatable when it’s presented with a playbook of what to do, what to say and how to look. It’s easier to befriend people to simply tell them about Jesus rather than befriend them to be Jesus to them. “Be their friend to convert them” is not what Jesus taught.

Rather, Jesus lived with non-believers, loved them and showed them a better vision for the future through His life. Telling people about Jesus is easier than living like him, but the latter will lead us to the cross. When we befriend those outside of the Church walls, we have to actually live out this whole Christian thing, not just talk about it.

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SOURCE: Relevant, Andrew Voigt