Friend of Sinners

I love this picture.  Jesus looks so... normal.  Like I could grab a grande-decaf-soy-sugar-free-vanilla-latte with him at Starbucks and he might even make fun of me for it.  And then I could talk to him about life - you know, like you do when you are catching up with a good friend.  He would laugh at my wit (I am pretty funny) and he would be quiet and listen with interest in the important parts when I processed something I was struggling with.  He would be full of wisdom, offering advice on how to handle situations, difficult people, and confusing decisions. And then at the end of our time we would hug.  A big hug.  Not the A-frame hug or the side-hug.  I'm talking a big, heartfelt, I-love-you-a-bunch type of bear hug.  And then I would say "same time tomorrow?" And off we would go.

When I was in college, my roommate and I weighed out "dime bags" and sold marijuana out of a cookie jar in our cupboard (and the cookie jar had more than one IOU in it).  I would go to Tijuana in Mexico and get wasted a couple times a week.  I gossiped.  I cheated on some of my economics tests.  I used my dad's company gas card to buy groceries and cigarettes and then used my grocery money to fund my evenings in the club scene.  I lied to people.  I was a secret smoker.  And God once told me I was a hypocrite.  Shocker

All of this took place as I was a professing - yet mostly backsliding - Christian.

I was a sinner.  And Jesus was still my friend.  He never left - even though my childhood walk with him had taken a rather seedy turn.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Tim 2:13

I am still a sinner.  Not in such obvious ways, but if I were to tell you I didn't sin, the Apostle John would call me a liar.

The reality is we all sin.  Yet Jesus still invites us to coffee.  He still wants to hang out with us. He wants to hear our fears and take them on his shoulders.  He wants to give us advice and assurance.  And he wants to give us a great big bear hug - even if we smell like smoke and alcohol from the club the night before.

Jesus had a reputation for being friends with sinners.

 33“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Luke 7:33-34

Now don't get me wrong,  I'm not endorsing turning the friendship and grace of Jesus into licentiousness (free license to do anything we want because of, you know, grace).  Most anyone that knows me or reads my work knows that I feel called to raise the standard for Christian behavior.  How I was living as a professing Christian was not okay.  There is a distinct difference between Jesus hanging out with sinners to show them God's love, and me just partying with sinners.  I WAS a hypocrite.  I wasn't a light.  I was in need of the glorious trifecta of conviction, repentance and forgiveness.  But while I was in progress, He was still with me in it.  

No matter where you are, Jesus loves you and is with you in it.  No matter how often you find yourself there, He is with you in it.  But he is also calling you to something greater.

I'm thankful that Jesus remained my friend during those times.  But I want more than His friendship.  I want His Lordship.   I want to serve Him and make Him proud.  I want to be confident in my faith and confident at his return.  I want to bring Him honor and add increase to his reputation.  And I can't do that if I am living my own way and simply taking of His grace.  His friendship was oh so needed and appreciated, but I realized it was all one sided, and I needed to step up.  

Jesus is a true friend.  And He's a true Lord.  Let's always strive to remember both.