If you were to list out the possible titles and reputations people identify you with, would any of them be: Friend of Sinners?
If the answer is no, here is a question. What would have to change about your life for your reputation to become a “friend of sinners”?
Think about it. It is a good test of your priorities, your theology, and ultimately your love for others. Do you hang out with, eat with, and just do life with the marginalized, the dirty, or the sinful?
I don’t think others would describe me as a friend of sinners, but I’d like to be more like Jesus in this area. So rather than lament my shortcomings or have unrealistic dreams of my house being the everyday hangout for the most wretched people in society, I’ve thought through 4 types of friends that I (and most of us) have. One of my underlying goals for my family is to constantly be moving people including sinners further down this spectrum of friendship.
“Front Yard” Friend
This is the neighbor that you talk to while checking the mail, mowing the lawn, or lamenting that other neighbor down the street. You know each other’s names, maybe even jobs, and you are cordial. But the friendship stays outside.
Who are some sinners that are your “front yard” friends?
This is the friend that has actually been in your house or you have been in their house. Maybe you borrowed Tupperware, carpooled each other’s kids, or have actually talked through some deeper things while hanging out on the couch. Honestly this type of friendship is not easy in the culture we live in. Most homes and neighborhoods are not built with hospitality and friendship in mind but rather secluded individual comfort. So this step in any friendships will never actually happen without some effort and courage to get over the awkwardness of asking people into your home. But people are open to it; they just don’t have any practice in how this actually happens.
Who is the last “sinner” that sat on your couch and enjoyed a drink and good conversation?
“Dinner Table” Friend
This is the type of friend that you have shared a meal with in your home. Food was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. If you read through the Gospels he was always in someone’s house sharing a meal or providing a miraculous meal for those following him. Food unites. Food levels the playing field. Young and Old. Rich and Poor. Righteous and Sinful. The dinner table (like communion) brings every type of person together. Is your dinner table a picture of this type of unity and grace?
Who is the last “sinner” that you have sat across from at your dinner table?
Now what does this mean? This is the type of friend that is more than just someone who will come into your home and sit at your dinner table. This is the type of friend who will hang out in your kitchen. This type of person has refrigerator rights. They have the right to grab something out of your fridge with or without asking. Do you have friends like that? (Well we all do. They are called family.) But outside of the core of your family, what friends of yours have reached that level. After reading through Jesus’ life and ministry, my guess is that if his ministry were to happen today, there would be some shady characters that had refrigerator rights in his home. What about you?
Who is a “sinner” in your life that has grabbed a soda out of your fridge lately?
Now again, this is not going to happen over night. It didn’t happen over night for Jesus. It takes love. It takes intention. It takes time. It takes forsaking some of the cultural barriers to friendships that we face today (and there are a lot) just like Jesus had to forsake the barriers of his day. And honestly there is one subtle barrier we will all face the more we are intentional in trying to move “front yard” friends to “refrigerator” friends. Awkwardness. There will be plenty of awkward moments. You will be rejected, and it will be awkward. As you start seeking out your neighbors, it may get awkward. People with weird lives and views in your home will be awkward.
Embrace the awkward. The reward of becoming a friend of sinners far outweighs the few fleeting moments of awkward that you have to embrace along the way.
Do you want to be a friend of sinners?