A Friend of Sinners
“They say, ‘Behold … a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”
There are three principles that we can learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Pharisees in Luke 5.
First, evaluate all advice you receive by the Word of God. Yes, the book of Proverbs says that we should “listen to counsel” (19:20). But before we follow other people’s instruction, we ought to ask, “Is this what the Bible teaches, or is it just that person’s opinion?”
Second, tolerate differences in other Christians. A member of my extended family can eat a carton of ice cream and not gain a pound. Yet I can just look at a bowl of ice cream and my cholesterol goes up 30 points. We have different metabolisms. That means my family member has freedom that I don’t have. I have to impose rules on myself in order to stay healthy, but he doesn’t have to abide by the same rules I do. Now it’s the same way in the Christian life. If the Word of God doesn’t say you can or can’t do something, then you need to follow what your conscience says, because God may lead you in a different way than He leads another Christian. Other Christians may have the freedom to do something, but God may say to you, “I know you, I made you, and this would be too much of a temptation to you.” And just because God leads you a certain way, don’t assume He is going to lead other Christians the same way. When it comes to things the Bible doesn’t discuss, command, or prohibit, we need to let God lead people and not impose our opinions on them. Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not judge one another anymore.”
Third, associate with unbelievers. Christ has left you and me here to influence non-Christians to become Christians so they can experience eternal life. But the longer we are Christians, the fewer non-Christians we tend to hang around. The time we know the most non-Christians is as soon as we are saved. Too many Christians think, “I can’t be around non-Christians because I might get contaminated or become like them.” No, God has called us not to isolate ourselves from non-Christians but to influence non-Christians. That doesn’t mean we date them or marry them. It doesn’t mean we go into business with them. But we are to try to influence them, and you will never influence people you don’t hang around.
We need to take our cue from Jesus. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus didn’t hate sinners. He loved sinners and rejoiced when they came into a right relationship with Him. In contrast, the Pharisees hated sinners. They wanted to live separate from sinners. But God loves sinners and rejoices when they come to salvation.
Make no mistake about it–Jesus hated sin, because He saw the way it destroyed people’s lives. Jesus hated sin, but He loved sinners. He spent time with them. He prayed for them. Jesus loved sinners and rejoiced when they came to faith in Him, and so should we.
~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~