Friendship is far more important to God than we often realize. We tend to think he puts top priority on performance, purity, and perfection, and we assume relationship is the eventual reward for those things. In other words, the more like Jesus we become, the closer our relationship with him will be. Actually, it works the other way around. The closer we get to Jesus, the more like him we become. Relationship comes first; change comes later.
Unfortunately, many people who consider themselves Christians and followers of Jesus mix up the order. We often try to correct people before we connect with people. Not Jesus. As we read about his life and listen to his teachings, we see time and time again a man who went out of his way to befriend people who had been ostracized, labeled, and rejected by society. Many of those people eventually became world-famous leaders in the Christian church. Some of them became writers of the New Testament. Some of them gave their lives for Jesus. What happened? What transformed them? They were friends of Jesus, and their lives were inevitably and irrevocably changed as a result.
When we realize how much God has done for us and how much he loves the world, we will find ourselves opening our hearts and lives to hurting people. Oscar Wilde, the famous nineteenth-century playwright, once wrote, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”1 In other words, even the best person needs humility, and even the worst person has hope. God cares about everyone, regardless of where they are on their journey: spiritually mature or seeker, devout or in doubt, religious or simply curious. All of us need him, and all of us can find him. Whether we consider ourselves saints or sinners, Jesus wants to be our friend.
How to Use This Book
My friends call me Rich.
I have always loved life.
I love to live in the moment, To savor experiences.
Laughter, conversation, friendship—it’s beautiful. Life wasn’t meant to be a solo. It’s duet. It a quartet. It’s a choir. I believe the quality of life depends on the quality of our relationships. People bring so much purpose. Everyone needs a friend. Good friends make the valleys easier and the mountain tops so much better. My hope for this book is for you to be challenged to find friendship with Jesus, and to use that friendship to pilot your relationships with the people around you. Don’t let fear keep you from opening your hearts and lives to others. Befriend Jesus, befriend others, and connect with people regardless of where they are on their journey. All of us need Jesus, and all of us can find him.
Friend of Sinners
Rich Wilkerson, Jr.