I want to take some space to follow up with some lacking information from Sunday’s sermon. We live in a world of people that are different in values and lifestyles. There will be many who will vehemently disagree with a life surrendered to Christ and His ways. Yet, Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and those who follow Jesus should be also known in the same way.
Some may object, and implore the authority of scripture for reasons to separate from unrepentant sinners. There are some grounds for that in a believer’s life but maybe not as much as one might think. Often 1 Corinthians 5 is utilized to provide such an argument which states, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
However, I would observe that this text is uniquely addressing professing Christians that are repeatedly falling to a specific temptation and/or no longer calling the sin wrong. The instruction to disassociate with “sexually immoral people” is explicitly directed to professing believers and not to those in the world. So there is an implication that we are to be involved in the lives of those in the world. Indeed, seek to love them and befriend them in the context of being an active and interdependent part of the local body of Christ. We are not to be the ones that make recipients of our love “jump hoops’ before we can love people. We do not have to approve everything that others do. Who can do that anyway? Jesus is the only one we can wholly approve. There are many times I do not approve of myself specifically because I love myself and expect more. However, we can love and respect people while not at the same time approve all of their decisions. This means that as we examine the multiple interactions with those outside we can lean more toward “yes” to invitations and responses. We will pray for wisdom to examine when our activities with friends may become an approval of their actions. Many times those implied approvals can be negated with a frank and loving conversation about our lifestyles convictions. At the same time, understand that anyone who follows Jesus’ commands on sexual expression will be increasingly bizarre in a society that wants the freedom of sexual expression to rank as high as freedom of speech, and religion. This takes us to the essential command to allow Jesus to cross our will as we trust and love Christ and His work.
While Jesus had many friends who were sinners there were only a few that He entrusted himself to “because he knew what was in their hearts.” This is evidenced in John 2:24 where Jesus differentiates levels of friendship yet He loved them all. This “entrusting” idea is a very conscious decision of the level of influence we give to someone to shape our thinking and identity. Jesus looked to the Father for his identity and sought the Father’s voice in the words of others around him. We don’t have the benefit of the knowledge of heart Jesus possessed, though words and actions can reveal much of our heart. The principle of degrees of friendship is a wise principle. These friendship degrees will be separated by our level of entrusting ourselves to a friendship and thereby determining the level of influence.
A helpful resource to help you think through your relationship and friendship can be found in Brad Hambrick’s book.Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends