Jesus: Friend of Sinners
by Danyale Tamminga
There are many words and phrases in the Bible that give us some understanding of who Jesus is. These Lenten reflections of the past month have been helping us to see that again. I am glad one of those phrases is: Friend of sinners.
Friendship is a special and rare thing, no doubt about it, even if Facebook tells me I have 758 friends (Which it hasn’t. Because FB and I haven’t friended each other yet). Different people dot my memory as I think back over, “Who are my friends? Who have been my friends?” There’s my kindergarten memory of Becky with her long, brown hair. There’s Emily Furlong in middle school, with her wit: “I’m ‘Em’ for short and ‘Emily’ FUR-LONG.” And Hollie, in high school, who was my U/B/F/F. I like thinking about these earlier friendships, but I wonder what was it that drew us to each other?
And what of our friendship with Jesus? I think about Christ inviting us to Life in Him. Do you remember the hymn we sing in church sometimes: “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee?” We were found by Christ and invited to be (among other things) his friends. It is a privilege to be Christ’s friend. There was nothing in us, our hearts all corrupted by sin, that would have moved us toward Jesus. It was all Him, this friendship that is now ours.
There is another sweet song in our hymnal. The first part of the last verse goes:
“I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! So kind and true and tender,
so wise a Counselor and guide, so mighty a defender.”
Having become our friend, through his death and resurrection, what a friend He is. Who wouldn’t want, as the line of this hymn suggests, a friend who is kind, true, tender and wise? Or a friend who is a mighty defender? (Who, by the way, wouldn’t want to be that sort of friend?) Jesus is that kind of friend to us. The best.
Not so long ago, an older church friend said to me, “Growing old isn’t for the faint of heart.” Nor is the Christian life. It is a hard life (think of our dear brothers and sisters throughout the world being persecuted for their friendship with Christ), but we have been given something as we slog and keep fighting: a best friend who is with us and for us. The best. Or in secret friendship language: a U/B/F/F (ultimate best friend forever).