Acceptance is the word for the thing I most coveted as a young woman, though I didn’t know it at the time. Never one of the popular crowd, I spent much time alone even when surrounded by people. The object of ridicule, bullying and neglect, even at the hands of family members left me with deep feelings of insignificance and unworthiness. All of which hindered any friendships, until I met Jesus, the friend who loves at all times. Prior to that time, my friendships consisted of seeking approval and acceptance in all the wrong ways.
Clearly rooted in a desire for love and validation, my quest for acceptance compelled me to do and say things I deeply regret. I remember working so hard becoming the person others wanted, yet feeling completely worthless. Paradoxically, I reasoned if I became what everyone wanted, then I would be accepted, loved and valued. Predictably, I merely increased my loneliness, feelings of worthlessness and self loathing. Sadly, many years passed before I met the Friend who forever shattered the lies, healed my wounds and showed me what true acceptance, love and worthiness genuinely looked like.
The Heart of a Friend
Saturated with illustrations, the four Gospels pour forth a vivid picture of the heart of Christ for sinners. Walking with Jesus through the Gospel accounts we witness physical healing, mental and emotional healing, exorcism of demons, feeding the hungry and raising the dead. Twice in the Gospels we find Jesus weeping. Yet in these displays of anguish, what His heart reveals refers not to His own pain, but the pain of others. Time after time Christ’s compassion gravitates towards the undesirable, disgusting, undeserving members of society; those marginalized and ostracized. Culminating in His enemies’ labeling Him as “a friend of sinners”. (Luke 7:34)
Christ’s coming undoubtedly fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, and the Gospels additionally reveal His holiness and unrivaled authoritative teaching. But what arrests our attention upon reading the Gospel accounts is the manner in which Jesus interacts. He unreservedly touches, heals, forgives even embraces those who stand most unworthy. In my recent post, “Beloved Treasure of the Heart of God”, I discuss the Oneness of the Godhead in their love for mankind, more specifically Jesus as the express image of God the Father. This Oneness in Love is expressed by the Father in Exodus 34:6-7, and personified and displayed by Jesus Christ on this earth. This is Jesus, the friend who loves at all times.
jesus, friend of sinners
We have the head knowledge of why Jesus came to earth. We celebrate the birth of the Messiah at Christmas, somberly stand witness to His death on a Roman cross, and rejoice at the miracle of the resurrection. Yet how often do we actually contemplate the full magnitude of Jesus’ mission on earth? Jesus Christ, the express image of God the Father, walked this earth in the midst of all of its brokenness, disease, and sin. The Gospels distinctly testify when Christ saw the brokenness of this world, His inmost desire was to move toward sin and suffering, not away from it.
Think about that; really think about it in terms of Old Testament law regarding things clean and things unclean. The Book of Leviticus details numerous categories of uncleanness, most of which refer to moral impurity cleansed only by animal sacrifice. Jesus, God in human form, was the cleanest person ever on earth. Can you comprehend the complete purity, holiness, innocence and loveliness of His mind? Jesus, who kept every jot and tittle of the law, completely undefiled, when He encountered lepers and prostitutes, touched them.
The Unclean Made Clean
Jesus, the friend who loves at all times, moved toward the defiled, filthy, sinful creatures full of compassion, wholly compelled to reverse all the Fall had stolen and profaned. His very nature governed every impulse of His unblemished, benevolent heart; He could not do otherwise. Reversing the entire Jewish system, the only completely clean person touched unclean sinners. In so doing, Christ was not defiled, as biblical law stated. To the contrary, the unclean became clean by His touch.
Not only did Jesus touch the uncleanness of sinners, He touched their suffering, their diseases, the very things which made them outcasts of society. And these outcasts welcomed Jesus’ touch, His compassion, for they knew their need and helpless estate. While the self-righteous stood scorning afar off, relying instead on the works of the law for justification. The exact reason Jesus piercingly remarked the tax collectors and prostitutes entered the Kingdom ahead of the Pharisees. (Matthew 21:31)
The Unlovely Loved
Scandalously, Jesus unexpectedly loved those others deemed “unlovable”. Allowing what most agree was a prostitute in Luke 7:36-50, touch Him and wash His feet with her tears, drinking water with the “woman at the well” in John 4:1-41 and allowing a bleeding woman from Mark 5:25-34 touch Him, Jesus shocked everyone with His compassion towards women. Choosing to dine with tax collectors outraged the religious elite, and engaging a demon possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 repelled society.
In stepping towards those marginalized, outcasts of society, Jesus did more than heal infirmities. He genuinely saw them as priceless treasures, saw right through all of the ugliness of their suffering and the filth of their sin. Jesus, the friend who loves at all times, loved the unlovely, without repulsion, judgment or condemnation. Jesus fully knew the depth of sin’s cost, the consequences of the Fall and every sorrow we experience. Yet He moves ever closer, His heart bound up with ours.
Jesus a friend who loves at all times
Jesus, though without sin, understands our condition because He is touched with our infirmities, tempted as we are tempted. (Hebrews 4:15) Despised, rejected and betrayed, by His own people, His heart mirrors our anguish. From this place, He reaches out, meeting us where we sit, at times unwanted, abandoned and hopelessly paralyzed by our sin.
The deeper we sink into pain, anguish, suffering and sin, the deeper Christ draws us into His own heart, not away from it. No matter what keeps you marginalized today, whether lies and mistreatment of others, physical pain, chronic illness or the weight of too many wrong and sinful choices, come to Jesus, the friend who loves at all times. As you meditate on His journey to the cross, very step of the way touching, healing, forgiving those who came to Him; rejoice, for He came for you, choosing you to be accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)
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