Anticipation trickles over the crowd. The little man sits in the tree anxiously awaiting a glimpse at the rumored Messiah. His shins throb from where the bark scraped them clean as he clambered up the sycamore. His excitement shadows the pain.
“There he is!” someone shouts out.
Straining his neck, he finally sees him. The Messiah greets those around him, smiling at their childish joy. Ever so slowly, Jesus makes his way through the crowd. The little man sees him plainly now, just almost below him. Suddenly, Jesus’ gaze locks with his.
“Zacchaeus,” He calls peering up through the branches.
“Uh…. yes, lord?” Sweat begins to bead on Zacchaeus’ forehead. Could this man really be talking to him?
“Come down so that we may speak,” Jesus commands.
Zacchaeus leaps from the lowest branch to stand in front of this man. His heart hammers in his chest.
One of Jesus’ disciples whispers into Jesus’ ear disdain dripping from his words. “This man is a tax collector.”
Jesus’ eyes widen, eyebrows shooting upward. His lips turn downward.
“Oh, really? Well, I was going to visit you in your house today. However, as you are a, ah hum, tax collector, I think it would tarnish my reputation too much to do so. Perhaps if you cleaned up your act a bit, and really abided by the law, I would associate with you. But as it is, I shall have to move along. Goodness knows that I can’t be seen to too friendly with sinners! Others might think I condone your behaviour! Tata!”
He flips his hand up in finality leaving the stunned short man wiping the dust from his face.
Gotcha, didn’t I? You thought Jesus was going to be so Christlike, and overlook the poor little man’s beastly behavior. Oh, wait. That IS how it happened!
Sadly, however, it is the way the story is very different in America today. Today, Christians are so full of ‘you can’t do that’ that we are entirely undesirable to a world who desires something greater. Our representation of Jesus is SO far off course that He must be slapping his cheeks in shock at our attempts to ‘Be Like Jesus’. He never once said “be like me”; He said “love” and showed us how to do it.
I get that we are supposed to be ‘in the world and not of it’ (not that that phrase is actually IN the Bible). But we can’t even be IN the world if we make Jesus look so undesirable that the world turns away from us. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. His words- not mine. (John 3:17) It is pretty plainly stated, so how is it that we the Church keep missing it? It’s not our job to condemn people and bring them to judgment. It’s our job to love them and by doing so bring them to repentance.
Recently, Christians have made a big stink about Beauty and the Beast because of an entirely overly exaggerated homosexual agenda. Oh my gosh. Really? Of all of the crap coming out of Hollywood, we are going to hammer another nail into the coffin of Christianity because of one insignificant scene at the end of a children’s classic that you need a microscope to catch? That ONE movie out of thousands (all packed full of sin- drunkenness, immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) has made negative reverberations heard around the country. Perhaps if that one scene is worth your fighting for a ‘Christian cause’, you ought to stay away from the theatre, movie stores, or Netflix all together else you might be a bit hypocritical. And if you do choose to fight that battle, please don’t stand on a mountain top- or social media- and bash your Bible against people’s foreheads. They rarely like that very much.
Sorry Zacchaeus. Can’t come to your house today. Too much sin there.
If you must fight a battle, do it like Jesus. The only time we see Him angry enough to take action was not IN the world, but in the church. Let that sink in for you. Jesus became angry not with sinners, but with those who claimed to be followers of God- those who stood in His father’s house making a mockery of it, going directly against the word of God. He didn’t beat non-believers over the head in an attempt to bring them to him. He did, however, spit some serious scripture at the Church when they were in the wrong.
Sure, take a stand when you must. But don’t be obnoxious about it. Don’t reflect a Jesus who never actually walked the earth. If you want to make a difference in this world, take a stand in LOVE. You don’t have to condone someone’s sins just to love them any more than Jesus did.
Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
And you know what the world needs? Paul tells us in Romans that they need God’s goodness to lead them to repentance. The world doesn’t need our condescension and regulations. They need to know that they are loved despite the fact that they do wrong.
“Ah, yes, Zacchaeus.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10) The REAL end.