“Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near to Jesus to listen to him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” – Luke 15:1-2
A word of warning: it can be all too easy to isolate yourself in the Christian community. To only have friendships with Christians, to engage in activities exclusively with Christians, and to focus all your attention on Christians.
When you do, it can be very easy to slip into another attitude: looking down on anyone who associates with non-Christians. Getting on your religious high-horse and throwing up your hands in horror at anyone who (heavens!) befriends a practicing homosexual, a drug addict, an adulterer, a convicted felon … or even just an unchurched neighbor. After all, we must avoid the corruption of the world, right?
Yes, we must. But not by hiding away in ivory towers. Jesus kept himself unstained by the world, but he ate every day with tax-gatherers, sinners, and prostitutes. He touched lepers, unclean women, and the demon-possessed. He associated with Samaritans, Syrophoenicians, and Romans. He was, simply, “the friend of sinners.”
We are called to follow his example.