Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ NKJV
When men referred to Jesus as ‘a friend of tax collectors and sinners’, they didn’t mean it as a compliment. Instead, they meant it as an accusation. By saying this, they were suggesting Jesus must be a sinful person in order for Him to be willing to associate with sinful people. Yet, we know that Jesus wasn’t sinful. He was sinless. Why then was Jesus willing to be a friend to tax collectors and sinners?
Perhaps it was not so much that He desired to be a friend ‘OF’ tax collectors and sinners as it was that He desired to be a friend ‘TO’ tax collectors and sinners. What’s the difference?
To say that Jesus was a friend ‘OF’ sinners suggests perhaps that He was a companion with them in their sinful way of living. That’s what the Pharisees were implying when they said this about Him. In their minds, only a sinful person would be comfortable being around sinful people.
But to say that Jesus was a friend ‘TO’ sinners says that although He wasn’t a companion with them in the way they were living or that He was comfortable with what they were doing, He loved them enough to be with them so that He might eventually save them. Perhaps this verse of Scripture says it best, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV) Even while we were the enemies of Christ, He loved us enough to befriend us and die in our place. As it is sometimes said, “Jesus hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”
Should Christians be friends with sinful people? Here are two important truths for us to remember:
First of all, we should be careful of becoming companions with them in the way they are living. Don’t forget our previous study which taught us that “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV) A bad friend can tear down a good person.
But secondly, we should love sinful people enough to become friends to them in order to help them find salvation. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 that the only way for us to completely avoid associating with sinful people is for us to leave this world. We must never forget that as followers of Christ, we are here on a mission and that mission is to share His good news of salvation with a lost and dying world, even tax collectors and sinners.
I pray that this week’s study on friendships has been a blessing to you. Until we meet again, God bless you brethren.