One of the most fascinating things about Jesus was how much time he spent with people. You would think that God in human flesh, knowing his time on earth was short, would have spent every minute expounding theological thoughts and doctrinal discourses. But Jesus took time out for people: good people, bad people, hyper-religious people, self-condemned people, sick people, even a few dead people.
Jesus made friends with disreputable sinners, people that society rejected: Zacchaeus, Matthew, the woman caught in adultery, the thief on the cross. He made friends with invisible people, those that society ignored or undervalued: Peter, James, John, and the rest of the disciples. He reached out to the blind and the lame and the lepers, and he healed them with no strings attached.
Keep in mind that Jesus came to show us the father (John 14:9). In other words, how he dealt with people was exactly how God deals with us. Jesus smiled at people because God smiled at them. He healed people because God wanted to heal them. He hugged people because God longed to hug them. He ate fish and chips with alcoholics, he played hide-and-seek with kids, he cracked corny jokes, and he forgave sins left and right because that’s what God would have done in his place.
He wasn’t faking anything. He wasn’t putting on a show so we would think more highly of him. He wasn’t trying to look relevant or win votes. He actually loved people.
We have to grasp this truth. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it. He came to save it. He wasn’t out to highlight his holiness and shame those who didn’t measure up. He came to find sinners and offer them a way out. He came to give hope to desperate, lonely, hurting people. He came to replace our quiet desperation with righteousness and peace and joy.
So what does this mean for us? It means that regardless of our past or present, in spite of our weaknesses and failures, Jesus is our friend, too.
Sometimes we have a hard time believing that. We look at ourselves through the filter of our failures and we lose heart. How could God love us? How could we ever be successful? How could we ever help other people?
But Jesus looks past our sin and loves us for who we are. His death and resurrection dealt with sin once and for all. They made a way for our relationship with him to be restored to what it was meant to be.
We get in a hurry to perfect ourselves, because we think that when we do, God will love us more. We think he’s waiting for us to clean up our act before he will really be our friend. But he will never love us more than he does right now. He will never accept us more than he does right now.
God is not in a hurry to fix us. Our behavior is not his first priority. Relationship is his first priority.
Our daily struggle against sin is noble and good, but remember this: we are not fighting to be righteous. We already are righteous because of Jesus.
We are his focus. We are what he thinks about all day long. Jesus is obsessed with loving us, with spending time with us, with knowing all the mundane details of our lives. We are his favorite. We are his friends.
Judah Smith is the Lead Pastor of The City Church in Seattle, Washington. Together with his wife Chelsea, they are pastoring the church of 7,000 with multiple campuses throughout the greater Seattle area. Pastor Judah has authored several books and travels the world ministering at churches and conferences, imparting into the lives of Christian leaders. His ministry is noted for an anointed and fresh preaching style mixed with humor, authority, passion, and strong faith. @JudahSmith