A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
Jesus is described in Luke 7:34 as the “Friend of Sinners”. This means that Jesus was liked, trusted, acquainted with, and allied in struggles with people who had yet to see him as their savior. Likewise, these things had to have been true of those people from Jesus’ point of view as well. After all, friendship is only friendship if it is mutual between two parties.
So I ask myself, “Am I a friend of sinners? Or am I functioning more like a ‘Rescuer of Sinners’ or ‘Stealthy Gospel Deliverer to Sinners’ or ‘Project Manager of Evangelism Outreach?’”
I’m struck by how quickly I focus on the word ‘sinners’ and far less on the word ‘friend.’
In this, I’m tempted to see evangelism as a project and people as the pieces to complete the task. This mindset stems from having amnesia in three areas.
Viewing Myself in Light of the Gospel:
I often forget that I am no different than unbelievers around me. I too am hopeless. I too am fearful. I am inadequate. Only with Jesus do I have life to the full and live in a state of freedom. D.T. Niles describes evangelism as “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
Am I remembering who I was without Christ and who I am in Christ when I share with others?
Viewing People as People:
I forget that people are people. I forget they have hopes, dreams, tragedies, and convictions. I forget that, though open to hearing what I know, they may need time to run my thoughts through their worldview. When I forget this, I am missing the opportunity to converse deeply with them about the Gospel and really wrestle with them over its truth.
Nav Staff Eugene Burell asked something once that resonated with me. “Will you love people, simply because they exist and are created in the Image of God, even if they never come to know Christ?”
Viewing God as God:
He is the forgiver of sins and the knower of hearts. He is the Savior that people need. Only He can woo people into a relationship with him. In light of this, my role in evangelism is not to be these things for people. My role is to be the bridge builder and the remover of barriers to the Savior.
Am I trying to do God’s job or am I clearing barriers for Him to be God?
This mindset shift challenges me to not
turn evangelism into a project. I want to share with people because my heart yearns for my friends to be allied with the ‘Friend of Sinners.’ And I want to rejoice with them when Jesus welcomes these friends into the kingdom, not as sinners, but as saints saved by his precious blood.
This is the fourth installment of a four part series on the calling statement of The Navigators. Our calling is "to advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom into the nations through spiritual generations of laborers living and discipling among the lost."