Friend of sinners

We live in upside down days. In this morass of cultural turmoil, pandemics are politicized. Autonomous zones are proclaimed Edenic by a fawning media. Lifetime politicians don kente cloths and take a knee , all the while knowing that their million dollar homes and investments are safe behind walls and continue to appreciate in value. Statues are toppled. Police are vilified. The black community is objectified. 

We are experiencing another season of racial unrest. Politicians and media advance causes that do not lead to love, unity and humility between all people. Black lives do matter, of course, and it’s sad that expressions like all black lives matter or _____ lives matter should produce animosity. In fact, matter is such a small, insignificant word. “Matter.” Really? How about all life is precious? Created. Of course, when we introduce a spiritual narrative and proclaim that all men are created equal, we are accused of only preaching the Gospel. In point of fact, I want to be guilty of only preaching the Gospel. I’d be in good company with the apostles. When the gospel is preached, lives and societies are transformed, and faith works to bless the nations.

From COVID controversies to cultural tensions, the battle for sanity and joy is intense these days. We need reform everywhere – police reform, media reform, political reform, and academia reform. We don’t need a revolution. We need reformation.

Are you frustrated?

I’m frustrated by the right and the left and the middle. It’s disheartening. Social media is a cess pool of bickering, name calling, misinformation and bile. No longer can anyone have an opinion that counters the PCN (prevailing cultural narrative).

In scripture, the PCN was labeled as “this present evil age,” (Galatians 1:4) and Christians were urged to “not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

None of this removes my own small problems, issues, spiritual struggles and tiny ambitions. Or yours. We each are forced to carry on, attempting to make ends meet, playing fair, embracing faith, raising children, changing the oil, vacuuming the carpet, and wondering what went wrong so quickly.

It is in these days that the battle for sanity and joy are intense. Frustration is good when it leads us to spiritual friendship.

A friend of sinners

That’s when I remember that Jesus was criticized for “being a friend of sinners.” (Matthew 11:19) Dane Ortlund points out that “though the crowds call him the friend of sinners as an indictment, the label is one of unspeakable comfort for those who know themselves to be sinners. That Jesus is a friend to sinners is only contemptible to those who feel themselves not to be in that category.” (Gentle and Lowly, p114)

I am a sinner. I must be one of the first to drop the stone in my hand. I am tearfully grateful that Jesus wants to be my friend. Yes, He’s King. He’s Lord. He’s Creator and Sovereign. He’s Savior, and by calling Him Savior, I recognize that He has the power to save and the will to save.

This Eternal Ancient One has bridged heaven and earth, has defeated hell, and He invites me (and you) to be His friend through faith.

Thank God that God is a friend of sinners.

We need such a Friend.

A Friend who gives sanity and joy. A Friend that washes my sin away in a culture consumed with hand washing. A Friend who wants to topple my idols and replace them with love in a culture toppling statues. A Friend who renews my mind and constantly points me to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable… moral excellence and… anything praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) A Friend whose constant presence in my life makes me a person who exudes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I need such a Friend.

When I want to rant, He’s there. When I get downright perturbed with someone’s social media post, He’s there. When I can smell my bad breath behind a face mask and get frustrated by wearing one, He’s there.

Jesus allies Himself with sinners. He allies Himself with me. I drop my stone, knowing that I have no right to cast it. Neither do you (especially through a store front window in protest).

When I want to cry in brokenness and helplessness and despair over our world and even my own internal confusion and selfishness and lack of completeness, He is there. A faithful Friend.

I am grateful that even when I’m not a great friend to Jesus, that He is a great Friend to me. It’s not my faithfulness to Him that sustains our relationship. It’s His faithfulness to me… and you.

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Who we turn to during our tense times influences our perspective. 

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

That’s why keeping company with Jesus will uplift us. Go rant to Him, and experience His calming perspective, His assurance of loving control, and encounter His vivid certainty that He is working all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

(Joseph Scriven, 1855)

In these days where anxiety desires to consume us – second waves, riots, tension, and an election year on top it all (the vitriol will get worse), may we re-discover in Jesus that He is a Friend for all, because He is a friend of sinners. Like me. 

By the way

In trying to write this post, this atrocious song kept echoing in my head. It’s relevant since “Jesus Is My Friend.” Watch it and… you’re welcome:

Credit to churchatsouthlake.com for the graphic of “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”

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