“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Jesus.
It is often said you can tell what a person is like by the company he keeps…“Birds of a feather, flock together”. There is some truth in that. But it’s not the whole truth. You have to consider the motives of people in the company they keep because it’s possible to seek out people’s company not because you like what they are or approve of what they do but because you hope to have some positive influence in their lives. Social workers, for example, spend their time with problem families not because they prefer families with problems, but because they hope to be able to help those families solve their problems. Jesus was a friend of sinners. The Pharisees assumed he preferred their company to the company of the righteous. It didn’t occur to the Pharisees that Jesus might have kept bad company for good reasons.
Are we more like the Pharisees or the Lord Jesus in the company we keep? I’m convinced we miss many opportunities for evangelism because the people who are often most ripe to respond to the gospel are the same people we most often neglect or try to avoid completely. The Bible challenges us to be fishers of men but we often avoid the places where the fish are biting. I’m not a particularly good fisherman, but I do know this much… it helps if you go to a place where the fish are biting.
The Pharisees avoided sinners. We can applaud their motive, they wanted to live a holy life. Their mistake was that they interpreted holiness in terms of insulation. They thought the best way to be righteous is to avoid contact with the unrighteous, so they were shocked to see the company Jesus kept. They had a false view of holiness. True holiness is not a matter of our external contacts, true holiness is a matter of our internal condition. It’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said, it’s the pure in heart, who see God.
Jesus mixed with tax collectors and sinners and still does. Not because he likes their ways or approves of them but because he came into the world to save them. Christianity is a rescue mission. This reaching out to and rescuing sinners is our mission because it’s the very essence of God. William Temple said, “Nobody can be indwelt by the Spirit of God and keep that Spirit to himself. Where the Spirit is, he flows forth. And where there is no flowing forth, he is not there.” God doesn’t avoid sinners. God loves sinners. He pursues sinners, and desires to use us in that pursuit. God, like a shepherd, seeks after the one lost sheep. It is at this point Christianity is different from every other religion. Every other religion is about our search for God, only Christianity is about God’s search for us.
“Do you have any non-Christian friends?” Can we be described as Jesus was, “The friend of sinners?” Or are all our friends Christians? If so, we are more like the Pharisees than we are like Jesus. Let us determine to follow Jesus’ example and make friends with unbelievers, to love them and to seek to introduce them to Christ. Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus. Whom have you brought to Jesus?