A FRIEND OF SINNERS
In Luke 7 we read the story of a Pharisee named Simon, who invited Jesus to his house to have a meal. I’m not sure why any Pharisee would invite Jesus for dinner, let alone bring in other strict religious men to eat with him. A likely reason for the invitation was that Simon and his friends wanted to determine whether Jesus was a prophet or, really, to discount him as one. The passage makes clear that Simon knew of Jesus’ reputation as a prophet (Luke 7:39).
Scripture doesn’t tell us what this group discussed around that supper table, but we can assume it had to do with theology. The Pharisees specialized in the subject, and they had tried to trick Jesus on other occasions with fanciful questions. But Christ knew what was in these men’s hearts, and it quickly became clear. The next thing we read is that a woman of the streets “who was a sinner” crashed the scene. Scripture tells us, “And he turned to the woman” (Luke 7:44). Here I see Jesus showing us where our focus must be: not on false religion, not on false teachers, but on sinners.
Looking away from Simon and his guests, Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much…. Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (7:47, 50). Jesus was revealing here why he came: to befriend and restore the fallen, the friendless, those overtaken by sin. And he is saying to us today, “This is what my ministry is all about.”
Likewise, says the apostle Paul, this is what our focus must be. We are not to judge a fallen person, but to seek to restore them and remove their reproach. In fact, he made this the test of true spirituality: a readiness to restore a fallen person. “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Paul then quickly adds this instruction of Christ’s way: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). What is the law of Christ? It is love: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).