Friend of Sinners
The other day a friend and I had been having a conversation about some of the current events happening. A lot had happened in the two weeks since we had seen each other, the conversation though important, was kept casual. But, before I left, the conversation turned to a much more serious and personal nature for the both of us. As friends, we have become very close, as brothers would be, and he made a statement that resounded, not only a truth in me, but something that alarmed me. It was something that I had struggled with for months. He stated the fact that he was fearful of two things in this life: the first, easily avoided was prison; but, the second, was dying alone. He had asked God to take him from this life many times. He wanted his life to be over, which was a sentiment that I had expressed many times myself.
Obviously our friendship had garnered the ability to speak honestly with each other, and the severity of the statement made me reflect on myself and my life. Throughout our friendship, I had learned that we struggled with similar addictions in life, however, one vital key to his life was a personal relationship with God. Not to say that God was not in his life, or to say that he had no faith, for he did go to church and he did believe in God. But the idea, that one living life has to be driven to desire to know who God is while they are still breathing.
He had expressed to me that he did not sleep well, that at night his mind was busy thinking about all his issues... the possibilities... the failures; his mind would be swamped with things that would bring him sadness and depression. Of course my immediate response was to turn to the pastoral, to be the councilor, but really to express my thought mostly as my friend. He had expressed that he prayed, that he would tell God about his struggles.
Then I asked him a question that I had been contemplating myself: How long do you spend getting to know him?
His response was what most Christians tell me, that God knows what we want and what we need. That God knew his heart and his mind and what was on the inside. With this statement he spoke truth. In fact, God knows us even better that we know ourselves, but the revelation that struck me was something that I knew in my heart, something that I had already understood, but still the revelation was clear... How well did I know God?
I know that the friendship that I had cultivated with my friend was something that took time, and over the course of three years we had gotten to know each other. But the key was that it took effort and devotion. Would I have known him as well if I had only spent five minutes a day with him? Our friendship took time to build.
Then I asked myself: How much time do I spend getting to know the man that died to save my life?
I know that the distractions of this life are great. I spend my days keeping myself busy. Sometimes I play, sometimes I read, sometimes I write. I serve at the church, but even that is ritual, and my service to my God is only one aspect of my relationship with God. But do I have a relationship with God. Do I spend time trying to understand who he is?
Jesus, after His resurrection, spoke to Peter and asked him three times if he loved Him. But the definition of love those three times changed. He asked Peter the first two times: Do you love me as your God?, using the word agape which has an understanding of unconditional acceptance, an unconditional love. But, the third time, He asked Peter: Do you love me as a friend?, using the word phili. And, in the Book of John, Jesus tells His disciples that: greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Many times Jesus calls the people his friends. His desire is for us to experience the love that he and his Father share. He wants us to find happiness; He wants us to find peace. Jesus is the friend of sinners. He was accused of being friends with the people that society deemed corrupt and sinful. And he showed an example of understanding and wisdom with everyone He encountered. As I grow older, and my experience in this life grows I realize that Jesus does love me for who I am. He truly is in my life, so I will live this life to the best of my ability trying to understand Him more.
And, so with my friend what could be the greatest gift I could have given him? Could it be a lecture? How about if I gave him a stern warning? No, the greatest gift I could give is to be his friend. Jesus said that His command is to love as He had loved, and He said that if we followed His words that He would be our friend. Our God came to earth, and dwelt among us, leaving us with instruction on how to serve in his stead. He did not tell us to judge, He did not tell us to condemn. He instituted the example of love and taught us how to love as He loves us.
If I could ask Peter and Paul what they loved most about Christ, I wonder what they would have said, but my guess was the fact that Jesus was their friend. Both of these men were pillars of our faith, and both men had done things deserving of God turning His back on them. But He loved them anyway. He even loved Judas, the man who would betray Him, just as He did the rest.
Paul describes everything that he went through for his friend in his second letter to the Corinthians. And almost every Apostle died in service to their God and friend. Throughout the centuries, there have been those who have come to the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God, and they come to the understanding that there is no greater gift than for man to lay down his life for his friend.
As the world get worse, as time moves on, we, the elect... the called out ones, are becoming fewer and fewer. We must draw near to our faith, to our God, to our fiend. For when the end comes, I want to have Jesus, my friend on my side. I want to be prepared; I want to live as He would have lived. Let us remember that Jesus has won the war, but the battles go on and on until he comes back to rescue his friends.