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Are you a “friend of Sinners”?

That’s a strange question, you might say. But is it?   Why would anyone want to be a friend of sinners, you might ask.  But after all, your Savior said that he himself was called that – “a friend of publicans and sinners.” 

Here are a couple contrasting scriptures.  One says if we are a friend of the world, we are the enemy of God.  The other – spoken by Yeshua (Jesus) himself says HE was called a “friend of sinners”.

James 4:4

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Luke 7:33-34

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.'  34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'  

So back to the question: ARE you a friend of sinners?  Was Yeshua really a friend of sinners? It would be easy to give a simple answer and say “we are all sinners, and so of course he is a friend of sinners.  And so am I – because we’re all sinners, aren’t we?” But as you’ll see, the ‘sinners’ that Yeshua was a friend to – were the more notorious sinners. He didn’t seem to mind “hanging out” with people everyone knew were not nice people.

But our loving father has plans for all who will accept Yeshua as THEIR friend - - and SAVIOR and King. He wants us in His family as his very own children.  Yeshua was the way in, the door to the kingdom. He came to save – as that is what his name means – SALVATION – and the ones needing saving are sinners. And yes, we ALL are sinners. But lets’ read Savior’s story, shall we?

One time Yeshua invited himself to dinner at an infamous tax cheat, the little-liked IRS agent of his day – Zacchaeus.  He was pretty excited that this miracle-working holy man knew him by name and wanted to come visit with him.  As he slid down the sycamore tree in haste, he must have been asking himself, “Why me? Why would he even care about me?” 

They had a grand old party going and just when it was getting good, the church-going folks (the Pharisees) wondered out loud….let’s pick up the story in Luke 19:6

Luke 19:6-7

So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He [Yeshua] has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner."

My question again:  has this ever been leveled at you?  Have you ever been accused of being a friend of sinners?

Please be sure to click on “Continue reading” to the right -- to get the rest of this thought-provoking question answered.

 

There was something about our Savior that even people who knew they were terrible sinners somehow felt at ease in his presence.  I don’t know of a single time where Yeshua is castigating “sinners”. But there are lots of instances where Yeshua corrects and berates the Pharisees, scribes, elders and priests – the leaders of religiosity of that day.  The everyday sinners knew what they were – sinners.  They didn’t have to pretend to be something they weren’t, for everyone knew what they were – bad people, sinners.  But what do we find Yeshua doing?  Befriending them.If anything here’s what we find:

---One of the 12 disciples who ends up even writing one of the 4 gospel accounts – Matthew Levi – was also a “sinner” – a tax collector.  When Yeshua called him, Matthew was so overjoyed that he even invited all his other tax cheat friends (“Publicans”) to come as well.  Would YOU have picked a despised person to have his name be on the foundations of heavenly Jerusalem for forever and ever? 

Luke 5:27-32

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"

31 Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

---Yeshua loved demonstratingthe love of Godto and for sinners.  He loved showing them a better way and letting them know they could be loved and accepted by Abba above. My favorite parables about the love of God are those in Luke 15 – the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost prodigal son.  ALL of those parables were given from this context:

Luke 15:1-3

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”  SO he spoke this parable to them saying…”

--- We see this also in the story of Mary Magdalene, who once was demon possessed. This lovely child of God became the first person on earth to see the risen Messiah, the son of God. Her past meant nothing to Yeshua. She had a bright future and she believed in Messiah.

--- The sinful woman at the well in Samaria, John 4. It almost seems Yeshua went to Samaria to show her the good news of her Savior and the Way into the Kingdom. She felt amazingly comfortable around him and evangelized to the whole city. So Yeshua stayed there two more days, among the despised Samaritans, for HE did not despise them.  If you are one of the Untouchables of India, for example, take heart. You are loved and cherished by your Creator.

--- The repentant woman “whose sins are many” who sought out Yeshua, wept profusely as she washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair – she too, was accepted by Yeshua, the FRIEND of sinners.  See Luke 7:36-50, especially verses 47-50. 

We’re all recovering sinners. I often feel like Paul who called himself “chief sinner”.  We know that the “giants” of the Bible like Abraham and others were called “Friend of God”.  Well now you know that you – and even I -- can also be the Messiah’s friend, to HIS glory and praise, for we too are sinners. 

We are not to be friends of this world – meaning the society and it’s values and ways – as that is so contrary to the way of the Kingdom.  But we MUST be friends of people. 

Some of you don’t become close friends with someone unless they are sabbath keepers, or unless they attend at your fellowship. I hope you change your mind on that now. Love your neighbors. Be friendly with your co-workers.  Invite your neighbors and people you meet to be a real friend.  Bring them to your home sometimes. Let your light so shine that people will glorify God as they see HIM living inside you now.  How can we be a light, if we never take the light of God into a dark world? And what use is a light where there are hundreds of lights already shining? 

Yeshua said if we are “nice” only to the people just like us (those in your church, let’s say), how are we any different from anyone else?  Here are his words:

Matthew 5:44-48

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”

Some of you think we are told not to eat or fellowship with someone who is not living right and you quote 1 Corinthians 5.  Well, Paul said, he was not at all intending us to think he meant people of the world, for we would have to leave the world if that were the case.  Paul was trying to show them that they should not tolerate the “brother” who was in their midst who was doing perverse things sexually. Paul wanted him put out, and then explains.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.

12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

So Paul is saying – DO associate and keep company with those of the world. Be a light to them. He was saying that someone who claims to have put on Christ needs to live like Christ now.  Good news: the man in question did repent and Paul instructed the Corinthians to bring him back into their fold (see 2 Cor 2). 

We are told to follow Christ, and to mimic God (Eph 5:1).  What better way than to start greeting and being friendly with “Sinners” – people who are not sabbath keepers, who do not attend your fellowship, and have not yet come to know their friend Yeshua.

Let them see what Yeshua is like – by seeing Yeshua in you.

[For more on this, check out the two recent sermons on the love of our heavenly father, Abba. The most recent one is about how he deals with people who are sinners.  After all, we’re all recovering sinners, are we not?]

Praying for healing for the unconverted
The 17th of Tammuz – a day of mourning and hope
 

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