Christians who are on the verge of backsliding, or attempting to hang out with ungodly friends, often try to cite Jesus’ own experience. “But Jesus was friends with sinners,” they often say.
There is some truth to that. In many ways, Jesus is the very best friend of sinners. Given that all humans have sinned, and Jesus has died so that we may be saved, He is indeed a great friend to us. But one should never confuse Jesus’ ministry with Jesus’ social preferences or friend choices.
It is very important to understand what Jesus was doing when he “hung” with the sinners, because this sometimes gets blown out of proportion and people use it as a crutch to hang with people they shouldn’t be hanging with.
Did Jesus hang with the sinners so He could sin (or to listen to their sinful life)? Or did Jesus hang with the sinners to reveal sin? Did he engage in sinful behavior along with the sinner? Did he tolerate sinful behavior or rebuke their sinful behavior? Let’s See:
How Jesus Dealt With Sinners and Sin in Friendship
First, Jesus tells us the exact reason why he hung with sinners with his own lips. The Pharisees accused him of hanging with sinners, and how did Jesus reply?
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Clearly, Jesus didn’t view his hanging out with sinners as fun or just hanging out. We don’t go to the doctor to hang out do we? Of course not. We go to the doctor to get healed. We go with purpose and intent. And doctors don’t go to work to hang out. They go to heal the sick.
So Jesus reveals His intent when ‘hanging’ with sinners: Not to hang, but to heal.
He isn’t hanging with sinful people to party or because He thinks they are cool, He is hanging with them to reveal their sin, bring them to repentance, and to follow God’s word. Repentance means to turn or to change. So how could Jesus urge them to repent if he condoned their behavior? He couldn’t!
His mission was to teach and guide us, to be a Shepherd and prepare our hearts for the salvation he would bring. Jesus came to minister to all of us sinners, yes, but He calls us out of sin. He never says, “Keep doing what you’re doing, carry on… it’s cool, I’m just here to hang.” He calls us to drop everything and follow him… or he tells us to go and sin no more or he invites us to take a drink of living water from him.