Jesus was called the friend of sinners, Christians usually spend all their time with other believers.
I recently spoke to a friend is leading a church here in the UK. We had agreed to spend some time reflecting on the things that we are both currently doing and to ask God to show us what we should be investing more time and energy in and what we should invest less time and energy in.
It was a helpful exercise and I’d encourage you to do it as well!
As I spoke with my friend it became obvious that doing this exercise had thrown up a major issue for him. He shared the activities, people and projects that he felt to invest more of his time in and those he felt to invest less in…and then he went quiet.
My friend is leading a church of around 50-75 people that meets in a building every Sunday and in homes mid-week. They are a loving community of people with a passion for prayer. My friend has been leading the church for around a year now and is trying to build a disciple making culture amongst them.
My friend has a big challenge though.
He’s a leader of that church but he feels God is leading him to cut down on the amount of time he invests in the church and to invest more in people and places where God is not known. He is in a challenging situation. The expectation from the Church is that he oversees and manages all the aspects of church life. But he feels Jesus is asking him to model what it means to be a disciple – and that looks very different! I speak to many people who also share this challenge. People who love other believers and the body of Christ – but who passionately believe we need a shift from “churchianity” back to what “Christ-ianity” is meant to be. My friend has been talking to the church about being a disciple of Jesus for a while now but he’s probably got to the point where he needs to show them through his life.
When Jesus came to earth he was clear about his mission,
“Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. ” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:10-14)
About 10 years ago we decided as a family to try and live as disciples of Jesus and to become friends with sinners. It was a simple but massive decision which affected our time, a lot of our relationships and even at times – our reputation. I remember looking in our children’s bible at the picture of Jesus sitting and eating with sinners while the angry religious leaders looked in through the door. That was our mission. To share our lives with those considered far away from Jesus or any kind of church and to help them become disciple makers amongst their friends and family. It went against everything we were familiar with and upset a few of our fellow believers.
I believe we need to redefine what it means to be a Christian. To me, being a Christian means to live like Jesus and to be a friend of sinner.
When was the last time someone accused you of eating with people who are scum?
How much time do you spend investing in people and places where God is not known compared to the time you spend with people who have been believers for years?
Please understand that I am not saying we should disregard gathering with other believers. All I’m saying is that I believe we need to re-evaulate whether who we are and what we do reflects who Jesus is and what He does.