This is the definition that Jesus adopted and demonstrated. It is not the case with everyone. It is not always the case with Christians. Often, if you fall, people like to distance themselves from you. They will not be there to help you up. But Jesus will: He is the one that sticks closer than a brother. He is the shepherd that will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He will pick us up as many times as it takes.
Mat. 11:19 tell us that many called Jesus a “friend of sinners.” This was not a compliment; this was a charge. The naysayers were trying to discredit Jesus and His message. You see, in that day, the religious order had “written off” certain groups of people like tax collectors. They would not associate with anyone beneath their holiness/religious threshold. Do you see any parallels between then and now?
There are so many great examples of where Jesus went out of his way to be “a friend” of a sinner. My favorite is where he met “the lady at the well” (Jn. 4). To understand the brouhaha of this meeting, we need to understand the cultural taboos of that day. Let’s keep in mind a few things:
- Observant Jews would not have walked through Samaria in the first place. Samaritans were considered unclean.
- This particular woman was of such ill repute that she had to get water from the well at noon – the hottest time of day. No observant Jew would speak to this woman.
- Jews believed that nothing good could come from speaking to an unrelated woman. Woman were uneducated, thus; you could not learn anything new. Further, women could seduce a man causing him to commit adultery (oh please). For these reasons, Jews avoided speaking with woman, especially women of ill repute. Many observant Jews had all sorts of religious rules that were supposed to keep them out of trouble (a hedge against transgressing the Law). Many of these rules were absurd.
You are not too far from God that you cannot be changed by the power of the Gospel. If you waiting to get your life straightened out before you seek out this "Friend of Sinners," you have missed the point. Jesus loves and accepts us as-is. He meets us where we are, not where we would like to be.