I read a statement a while back in Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but Not the Church that burned me with conviction. He asked something like, “When you go to a movie or go to hang out with friends, do you do so only with your Christian friends?”
All my adult life I have had a burden for the lost, and God has allowed me the joy of seeing many come to faith. But I had to come to grips with the reality that although I spend a lot of time weekly mentoring young leaders — pastors, church planters, student pastors, and missionaries — I did not make spending time with unchurched friends the priority I should.
Even more than Kimball, Jesus had a penchant for annoying people, especially the religiously self-righteous. In Luke 7:34 our Lord noted how some called him a “friend of sinners” in derision. Our Lord never sinned, but He consistently showed great love to sinners, including those the established religious of his day would ignore.
I made a decision a while back and it has changed the way I spend my time. Last Monday I went fishing with Danny, a bartender who does not know Christ. I love my students, but I am not going fishing with them. I have a couple of other friends who are currently or formerly bartenders (which is funny since I am personally a teetotaler). And I have other men who have become my friends who do not know Christ. And, I have some friends who have become followers of Jesus because I took time to be their friend.
When is the last time you went to a movie, played golf, or just hung out with people who do not know Christ? Yes, Christian fellowship is important. Most of us have that down pretty well. But can it be said of us that we are friends of sinners?
Look at the contacts on your phone. Can you find three people who do not know Jesus, but you know well enough to call them, meet for coffee, and speak to them about Jesus? If you don’t, get some new friends. And if you do, by all means, call them.
Let’s be friends of sinners. Let’s be like Jesus.