I have had this thought for a long time but have been a little concerned about actually putting it out there for fear of what people would think of me. However, the more I think about this and pray about, the more it becomes clear to me that I don’t need to worry about what others think of me because this is what God has been urging me to do for a long time in order to continue down the path toward “the promised land” (thank you Priscilla Shirer for this reminder today).
Here's what I think. I think for way too long, the church, as a whole, has been standing in the way of Jesus, crowding out HIS message of love with OUR message of judgement. At times, the church, including myself, has worried more about pointing out sin, pointing out people, pointing out groups WE have decided are wrong because they don't "fit the mold" or because they aren't "raised like us" when in reality we should be pointing THEM to JESUS.
Today, I was reminded of a very common story in the Bible, which I am sure all of us have read hundreds of times growing up in Sunday School. The story of Zacchaeus goes like this.
Luke 19:1-10 (Message)
1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”
8 Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”
9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
Do you see what happened here? Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, BUT the crowd was in the way. So, what did he do? He climbed up in a tree so he could see Jesus. Do you understand? You see, Zacchaeus didn't "fit the mold" of the others who were there. He was a tax collector, or in the minds of the "crowd", he was a "crook", so they didn't want to move over for "him". They judged him, plain and simple. Do you get it? WE (the church) a lot of times are the crowd, blocking people from Jesus with our judgements and our condemnations.
Here's my thought...what if instead of us being the crowd that is keeping people from seeing the beauty of who God is, we try and be the tree. Think about it. If we are the tree, we are lifting someone up to see Jesus instead of cutting them down in HIS name. If we are the tree, we are being a silent tool of mercy to a lost and dying world, instead of being a condemning tool of defeat or to be a little more frank, a tool of Satan (because isn't this what he wants...for us to screw up what God has ordained?).
I believe God's message is LOVE period. I have resolved to leave judgement and other’s eternity in God’s loving, merciful, and gracious hands. I trust those hands with my life and this world. I read this a little while ago and I want to share it with you. "If we as Christians are going to err on the side of anything, why don’t we err on the side of love.” Won't you resolve to do the same? After all, we were all once the leper at HIS feet. Watch this.