by Tami Rudkin
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners” (Matthew 11:19, NIV).
Broken dreams. Shattered hopes. Ruined lives. These words describe many in our world today. They may describe you. They’re all around us, on the streets, at our jobs, and in our churches. Those burned out and bedraggled knew love once. They held jobs, laughed with friends, hummed a tune; they had family who cared. At one time they too were full of dreams for tomorrow, complete with hope that yesterday could be put to rest, and brimming with the anticipation of today.
But now with every depressing drink, he realizes the dream is washed away.
With every fifty left on the cheap veneer dresser, she acknowledges there is no hope.
With every moment stolen and secret whispered, they realize their lives lie in decomposing rot.
Shaking their heads in disgust, some call them pitiful. But Jesus called them friends.
When friendship is true, unselfish, and forgiving, there is no sweeter relationship. Jesus wrote the definition of friendship by His acts of love. No person was too insignificant, too damned, too low for His kind of friendship. He cradled the forgotten child, called to the most loathsome tax collector, and invited the racially impure.
He listened to them as if their words held great meaning. He spoke to them of future days when all would be right. He trusted them with the secrets of life. He cried over them. He prayed for them when the pain of rejection was all but choking the life out of Him.
Jesus opened arms of comfort, spoke encouragement, administered admonishment, forever forgave, and longingly loved the unwanted of His society. He became an outcast Himself for those who needed a friend.
Aren’t you glad?
Haven’t each of us been the unwanted?
Haven’t we been the failure, the one to drop the ball?
Haven’t we found ourselves in the gutter of despair, wondering how we’ll rectify this mess?
Haven’t we alienated the ones we love, hurt the helpless, and laughed at the unlovely?
We know what it feels like to be at the bottom, to wonder if every passing stranger knows our failures. As others exist in costly clothes and perfect smiles, we intimately understand the pain of loneliness. And we realize the fear of not knowing the answers to tomorrow’s questions.
To us — the hurting, the lonely, the frightened — Jesus is friend. Whatever our life’s circumstances, this day Jesus beckons us. Every person is welcome to step in beside Him, to walk as a friend, to share in relationship, and to learn love without restraint.
Jesus is called by many beautiful names, but none rings sweeter to the one lost in his own quicksand of sin than that name we so long to hear: the friend of sinners.
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