There’s a beautiful wood carving of a cross in this home I visit often. It hangs on a wall, at the head of the dining table, reminding all who see it of the names of God. It includes all the holy titles such as, “Lord” and “Wonderful Counselor,” and names that reflect the humility of God such as, “The Good Shepherd.”
But as I read through them, I noticed one was missing.
Friend of sinners.
God is holy. There is absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. But often it’s easy to forget that He is also our Father, our rescuer, our friend.
To think that the righteous God of the universe would send His Son Jesus, in the form of a man, to call the unrighteousness like you and me His friends!
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” -Jesus (Matthew 11:19, ESV)
Jesus was ridiculed and misunderstood because He ate meals with tax collectors, who were at that time seen as cheaters because they kept much of the collected money for themselves. But that was exactly why He ministered to the tax collectors. “For the Son of man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
When He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, delivered to be crucified, Jesus called Judas “friend.” Even as Judas sinned against Jesus, Jesus was gracious to him. Christ died so that He could call us, those who sin against Him daily, His friends.
This leaves me in so much awe of God’s grace and mercy. As Paul wrote in His letter to the Ephesians,
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
That right there is the gospel. That sums up our past, present, and future as Christians, as Jesus-followers, and oh how marvelous it is!
Because of Jesus, we can call Him friend. Because of Jesus, we are children of God. We have an amazing Father, and long to be with Him forever on streets of gold. In this hope, life here on earth becomes a striving to glorify Him, not counting the cost because He has already given us everything.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”