Friday, March 18, 2011

Jesus Friend to Sinners

Jesus was a friend to sinners. That was actually one of the biggest criticisms the religious leaders of his day had about him. Today, some take the fact that Jesus was a friend to sinners to mean that we should participate in the activities of sinners. After all, if we want to be friends with a man who drinks, shouldn’t we go out drinking with him? I would like to suggest that we need to look at this differently. The reason Jesus was a friend to sinners is because Jesus was a friend to people that the religious leaders recognized as sinners. For that matter, the people Jesus hung out with recognized themselves as sinners.

I write books. That means that I want to sell books. That isn’t as easy as it seems like it should be. I have found, however, that it's possible to sell some books just by hanging out in various places on the internet, participating in the conversation and occasionally mentioning a book. But here’s the thing. When I hang out on sites that authors frequent my book sales take a nose drive. On the other hand, when I hang out on sites that normal readers frequent, my sales climb. Readers know they are readers. They are looking for that next book to read. Writers don’t think of themselves as readers. They read, but that isn’t why they are visiting the site. They are looking for information on how they can improve their writing, not information on what book they should read next.

Just like a person who sees himself as a potential reader for a book is more likely to purchase the book, the sinner who sees himself as a sinner is more likely to accept Jesus Christ. Just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t see themselves as sinners and rejected him, many of the people we encounter today don’t see themselves as sinners and they too will reject Jesus. While we want to give everyone an opportunity to accept Jesus, the most effective use of our time is to spend time with those people who know they are sinners.

It is easy to waste time discussing religion with people like atheists and people of other faiths, but many will remain unmoved by our arguments. They argue because they wish to convert us to their faith or simply because they wish to argue. There are many people who don’t really think of what they do as sin. They know we think what they do is sin, but they don’t see it that way. They know that we teach that adultery, fornication, and homosexuality is wrong, but they don’t see themselves as bad people. They will not be persuaded. They are much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who thought they were keeping the law. No matter how much Jesus told them otherwise, most were not persuaded.

There are people who recognize that they are sinners. These people are like the publicans and sinners of Jesus’ day. When we tell them that they will go to hell because of their sin, they listen. They see their need of salvation, so when we tell them what they need to be saved, they listen. If we want to be like Jesus, these are the people we need to be hanging out with.