Discover more from Grace Upon Grace
The sinner’s friend.
Jared C. Wilson’s balm for bumbling sinners.
I recently finished reading Jeremy Writebol’s Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken, a book which I highly commend any pastor and ministry worker to digest sooner as opposed to later. (A full review of that book is forthcoming.) However, just in time, Jared C. Wilson’s new book, Friendship with the Friend of Sinners: The Remarkable Possibility of Closeness with Christ, arrived on my doorstep. And even though I already have too many books in the “now reading” queue, I couldn’t help myself from cracking opening Jared’s latest work, which is pegged as his most personal writing endeavor to date. Jared C. Wilson is one of the most prolific Christian authors of the 21st century, with upwards of twenty-six books with his name on them. As an aspiring Christian author myself, Jared sets the bar high when it comes to putting words on paper.
Nevertheless, as I’ve engaged with Jared’s Friendship with the Friend of Sinners, it is apparent to me that this is a much-needed book for every sinner and saint in the Body of Christ. I feel confident saying that even after only three chapters. The hook of the book is Jesus’s words in John 15:15, where he says, “No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jared’s endeavor seems to be one that examines and explains what it means and what it looks like to be in friendship with the Christ of God, the Friend of Sinners (Luke 7:34). And I couldn’t help but share these lines with you from chapter three, “Nearer than Our Next Breath,” a probing discussion on Jesus’s closeness. Jared writes:
Jesus came to save sinners. He came to unite to himself people who could add nothing to him. He sends his Spirit to indwell people who are intimately familiar with emptiness. He’s looking for the last, least, and lost to bear the brandmarks of himself (Gal. 6:17) as his beloved brothers and sisters . . .
The omnipresence of God becomes a fortress for those who enjoy union with Christ. And the doctrines of omnipresence and union can together become hallowed ground for affectionate worship, because they remind us that we may relate to our friend Jesus here, there, and everywhere. There is literally no place we’ll be without our sweetest friend, because he has lovingly lashed himself to us, whatever may come. And whatever comes, because of him, cannot overcome us. (73–74)
It’s not every day that the omnipresence of God is upheld as one of the chiefest blessings of his glory and grace as seen in his Son Jesus Christ. But such is the ever-present hope of the gospel, which assures us that ours is a God who is closer to you and to me than even our next breath. He never strays from our side. The distance we might feel, the lapses in closeness we might experience, aren’t due to his wandering or waffling but ours. It is we who stray from him, not he from us. There’s nowhere we can go to escape his presence (Ps. 139:7–12). “There’s no place we can go,” Jared continues, “that our friend Jesus won’t be first beside us” (73).
Jared’s reminder of Jesus’s constant friendship with the likes of you and me is especially resonant in an era where the idea of being friends with someone has more to do with tapping a button on your phone requesting access to said person’s digital life than anything else. Even before the recent pandemic, which put a government-ordered stall on interpersonal friendships for a time, face-to-face, peer-to-peer relationships were already disordered by an onslaught of social media engagement. I don’t mean to turn this into a diatribe against all forms of social media. Rather, I only mean to say that Friendship with the Friend of Sinners might just be the perfect book for a generation of sinners who’ve forgotten what true friendship looks like.
Grace and peace to you, friends and sinners.
Jared C. Wilson, Friendship with the Friend of Sinners: The Remarkable Possibility of Closeness with Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2023).