Making friends is not always an easy task for everyone. Some people are outgoing and easygoing. Extroverts thrive on knowing and being liked by many other people. There are others who are more shy and reserved who are completely satisfied having fewer, closer friends.
All of us would agree that making friends, regardless of how many, adds quality to our lives. In the New Testament we read where Jesus chose 12 men who would grow close to Jesus and to each other, subsequently changing the world. Three of those 12 would become Jesus’ closest friends.
In Luke 7:31-35 Jesus discussed how the Scribes and Pharisees accused him of making the wrong kind of friends. Jesus also pointed out with these words how difficult it is to please others when it comes to the friends you choose. In this passage Jesus reveals the pharisaical heart. The Scribes and Pharisees thought John to be so conservative as to be crazy, but Jesus was too liberal for their liking. They complained that Jesus was a friend to tax collectors and sinners.
Other passages in the Gospels relate the disgust the Pharisees felt toward people who did not align themselves with their traditions, including Jesus. The Gospels are also clear that the religious sects of that time had no time for people who opted to collect taxes for the Romans.
There are many people outside the religious norms of today and, to an extent, these folks prefer to remain outside the norm. Fringe identities have a popular appeal to people who feel they are disenfranchised or marginalized by society.
“Tax collectors and sinners” were people who were pushed out of the religious community for their nonconformity. Jesus noticeably reached out to these disenfranchised individuals to let them know of God’s love and that God wanted them in his kingdom. It is so easy, in our time, to pass off the importance of our spiritual lives because of supposed religious hypocrisy. I recently read a quip that likened this sentiment to electing not to go to the gym to work out because there were so many out of shape people there.
Jesus is a friend to tax collectors and sinners. Those so-called hypocrites are in church because they have accepted their need for Jesus to be able to overcome their hypocrisy. People who feel cast aside need to know that Jesus wants to be their friend.
Sunday through Wednesday, Jerrie Barber, a friend of Jesus, is going to be speaking at Central Church of Christ about our friendship with Jesus. He is going to talk about how understanding and loving our friend Jesus is and how willingly and patiently Jesus will help you. Please join us.
There will be three opportunities on Sunday: 9 and 10:10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Barber will speak at 6:30 each evening, and a potluck meal will be served at 5:30, if you care to join us. We look forward to meeting you and introducing you to our friend Jesus.
Bryan Collins is minister of the Central Church of Christ in Dalton. His column runs the second Saturday of the month.