Ssssplat! Zacchaeus wiped the spit off his face for the fourth time that morning. Nobody liked him. And no one – except the other tax collectors – wanted anything to do with him.
Then one day, Jesus sought him out. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 ESV).
And soon Zacchaeus’ heart – and his life – changed!
The man who had built a career by cheating his neighbors joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home. He went from being a dishonest greedy man, hated by his own people, to a sincere and generous man, probably well-liked and respected by his community. (You can read this remarkable story in Luke 19:1-9.)
What changed Zacchaeus?
Perhaps for the first time in many years, instead of experiencing coldness, judgment and hate, Zacchaeus experienced genuine compassion, understanding and love. The mercy Jesus showed him – even before Zacchaeus began to change his behavior – enabled him to make different choices. Eventually, people saw a different man. Zacchaeus probably grew to see himself differently, too.
What would happen if we applied the lessons we learn from Zacchaeus’ story to our own lives? After asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, might we need to confess our shameful tendency to look down upon and judge those we consider worse sinners than ourselves? Are we willing to allow God to help us see others as He sees them – even before we see evidence of a changed life?
Or will we continue pointing our fingers and wagging our tongues until the person does something to deserve our compassion and support? If this is the criteria, what must a person accomplish before we begin to pull for her or hope for the best for him?
What would happen if we sincerely prayed and – as God leads – got involved when we see signs that someone is spiraling downward? How might our churches and communities benefit if we show God’s mercy to those caught in the consequences of their bad or sinful choices?
Isn’t this what we’d want if we were the “Zaccheaus” in our community – or in our church?
Sheryl H. Boldt is the author of the blog, www.TodayCanBeDifferent.net. You can reach her at SherylHBoldt@gmail.com.