Tonight in Bible study we got on to considering the accusation that was hurled at Jesus, ‘friend of sinners.’ We managed to move on from the fact that this wasn’t just a regular title, that it wasn’t just a reassurance that he was a friend of ours, as sinners.
We spoke about the fact it was intended as an insult, and as such it must have warranted more. We thought about his friendship with Mary Magdalene, the women at the well, Zacceus (or however you spell it), Judas Iscariot, the Roman Centurion, the lepers, the unclean, the misfits, the down-trodden, the bottom of the heap. We revelled in the fact that he loved the likes of those.
Then we wondered what it would mean for us to inherit the title. I mean, if we want to be like Jesus, we’d want that title too – ‘Friend of Sinners.’ What would the Salvation Army look like in this town if it really was the friend of sinners? We recognised that there exists within us all a prejudice against someone somewhere. We can all be pretty disapproving.
I recalled with pain the fact that I was never quite able to work through my feelings towards the pimps in Glasgow who used to keep those lovely young girls tied up in that lifestyle. Sure, I know God loved them and hated what they did, but its the only situation I can remember that I’ve had trouble distinguishing a person from his sin. Sounds silly, perhaps, but if I am to be a friend of sinners, I must be willing to be like Jesus and refuse to see them anything else than a person Jesus died for.
I remember constantly the challenge that Jackie Pullinger gives out: do you have a soft heart and hard feet that make you willing to go to any extreme to win the lost, or do you have a hard heart and soft feet that won’t take you anywhere?
I know what I want to answer. The question is: can I? can you?