Friend of Sinners

Matthew 5:20
The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and
drinks, and you say, “He’s a glutton and a
drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other
sinners!” (Luke 7:34).

Jesus’ teachings can seem to be paradoxical.

Exhibit A: He requires a standard of living that’s
even more rigorous than the Old Testament. Jewish
law condemned adultery (Ex. 20:14); Jesus said that
even looking at someone lustfully was wrong (Matt. 5:27-
28). Jewish law allowed for divorce (Deut. 24:1); Jesus
condemned it except for marital infidelity (Matt. 5:32).
Many Jewish leaders misread the Law and felt it allowed
for retaliation (Exodus 21:23-25); Jesus taught otherwise
(Matt. 5:38-42). Murder was always condemned (Ex.
20:13), but Jesus saw anger and hate as equally bad
(Matt. 5:22). Jesus definitely calls us to high moral
standards of eternal significance (v.20).

Exhibit B: But Jesus also earned a rather odd reputation
as the “friend of . . . sinners” (Luke 7:34). He dealt
gently with the divorced and the sexually loose (John
4:17-18, 8:10-11). He had dinner with thieving tax
collectors (Luke 19:5-8) and welcomed people with bad
reputations (7:37-39). Simon the zealot, one of Jesus’
own disciples, was a political revolutionary, and Peter
was even capable of violence (6:15; John 18:10). Jesus
kept company with the very people least likely to live up
to His moral standards. And that’s good news.

If you’re a murderer, adulterer, thief, or drunkard; if
you’ve lusted, lied, or been lax in keeping confidences; if
you’re greedy, angry, jealous, or selfish, Jesus is prepared
to accept you. He’s a friend of sinners. The only people Jesus can’t accept are the
arrogantly self-righteous—those who deny their need for change and forgiveness;
those lost in the deceptive belief that they are superior to all (Matt. 9:12).

Jesus was no doe-eyed softy, relaxing morals in some free-love way. His ethics
are hard, His standards high. But He’s also a friend of sinners, including you
and me. —Sheridan Voysey

Read the story of
Zacchaeus in Luke 19.
Which came first—Jesus
seeking out this tax
collector or Zacchaeus
seeking forgiveness for
his sins?

How does this
characteristic of Jesus
comfort you when you
sin? Which “sinner”
have you pulled away
from that you should
instead—like Jesus—
move toward in grace?