Jesus was known as 'a friend of sinners'. It was meant as a criticism, condemning him for getting in with the wrong crowd. The establishment had strong questions about some of his associates. He seemed to be ready to engage with people on and beyond the margins. He was open to these awkward characters that nice society rejected. But whoever we are engaging with, friendship is the way to go.
Brian Maclaren (in "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?") reminds us that: "Christian mission begins with friendship - not utilitarian friendship, the religious version of network marketing - but genuine friendship, friendship that translates love for neighbours in general into knowing, appreciating, liking and enjoying this or that neighbour in particular."
We sometimes talk about tools for evangelism and consider how we can develop strategies for effective evangelism. It is well worth remembering that the most obvious starting point for mission is friendship.
Maclaren goes on to talk about "conspiratorial" or "subversive" friendships which cross barriers and allow a pursuing of those things that we hold in common rather than allow the differences to prevent co-operation. He talks about sharing common dreams and the "give and take" of friendship. Surely that is how it should be. As Maclaren comments about a specific example: "Together we were plotting goodness." I think Jesus would go for that.