Now we hear the term “Friend of sinners,” and we think Oh, isn’t that lovely? But in the original context in which that epithet occurred, it was a criticism—a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
Well, I want to suggest that there may be no more precious name given to Jesus than this one, Friend of sinners. To think that the purest of the pure would be a friend to those who are so utterly unlike Him.
But let’s remember that Jesus is not the friend of sin. His is not a friendship that condones sin. He came to deliver sinners from their sin.
He doesn’t overlook our sin—sin had to be paid for and Jesus did pay for it with His life. The penalty for our sin and for the sin of every sinner in the world who will trust Him was placed on Christ as that’s what it means for Him to be a friend to sinners.
Jesus is a friend of anyone who knows himself to be a sinner and will receive His friendship. Jesus’ friendship is not just chumminess. It’s a pursuing, purifying friendship. And as so many sinners experienced when Jesus was here on earth, once you receive His friendship, you can’t keep going on in your sin. His friendship is transformational. It’ll take away our bent to sinning, our desire for sin.
So being a friend of sinners doesn’t mean that we condone or we participate in their sin. Jesus likened Himself in the passages we’ve been looking at, to a physician. Think about a doctor who deals with a lot of disease. The doctor doesn’t like the disease he’s dealing with. He doesn’t love it. He doesn’t have the desire to be around it or to catch it. And he doesn’t condone the disease in the sick person’s life. His purpose for being around sick people is to help them get well. Well, Jesus associated with sinners, so He could help them get well. So they could be restored to wholeness by His grace. —Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth