I was going to write a post about New Year’s resolutions but I have something else on my mind. I’ve been thinking about the self centeredness of Christians. How we as a people have bought in to the lie that it’s all about our rights, our opinion, and our freedom. In our minds so often anyone who disagrees with us is wrong. We struggle with pride Church, we refuse to acknowledge so often that we as Church have misrepresented Christ, and that people have suffered because of it. We refuse to acknowledge that we are ever wrong. Instead, we yell louder from our bull horn about how our views are right. This is a problem, a major problem because it’s turning an every dying world farther away from Christ. And it’s all about Christ.
I was sitting in a church service yesterday listening to friend of mine preach an unbelievable sermon. He was talking about Zacchaeus. The story anyone who grew up in church has heard a million times. Only this time I heard the story in context. Needless to say I’ll never see that story the same again, it forever changed my view of Jesus.
As we know the story of Zacchaeus goes something like this; “Zacchaeus was a tax collector and people in that day didn’t like tax collectors. Zacchaeus saw Jesus coming and because he was a short man, couldn’t see above the crowd. He then climbed a tree to see Jesus. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and told him that He was coming over his house for dinner. Zacchaeus, over dinner, believed in Jesus and and gave back 4 times the amount he stole from people”. This is a very simplistic version of the story but it will suffice for my point. My friend yesterday explained more about Zacchaeus and who he was. Zacchaeus was not just a tax collecter, he was the boss of the tax collectors. This guy was brilliant and filthy rich. He didn’t go out physically collecting taxes for Rome, he had his minions do it instead and took a cut of all the extra tax his workers charged the Jews. To make matters worse Zacchaeus was a Jewish person! This man was ripping off his own people for the government that oppressed his people. To make matters worse, Zacchaeus had the full weight of the Roman army behind him. If people didn’t pay the Roman tax plus the extra Zacchaeus charged (for full profit), he could invoke the army to arrest them. This was not some unintelligent fool, this was a cunning, smart, manipulative man making money off of his own people. I could imagine what the Jews thought of Zacchaeus. Words like scum, evil, and some other words that I won’t say come to mind. Jesus comes on to the scene and what does He say to Zacchaeus? Jesus tells him that He (Jesus) is coming over to eat a meal with him at his house! Could you imagine the uproar? This man Jesus is going to eat at HIS house? I can hear the Jews complaining behind his back saying things like “That food he eats was paid with our money!” and “This man is so corrupt and evil HOW can Jesus even eat with this man??!”. Needless to say, Jesus does eat dinner with Zacchaeus and at the end of the story Zacchaeus repents and changes his life, giving back what he stole and giving half of his possessions to the poor.
Why do I bring this up? Because too often Church, we are the crowd. We are the crowd throwing the law at people. We are opinionated, loud, rude, and full of condemnation at times. We are the ones demanding that people like Zacchaeus receive no grace. This is the opposite of Jesus and we should be repenting of this unseen sin. This sin that blinds us to the ways of the Kingdom.
When we look at the life of Jesus we see that he did not pick and choose what demographic of people was reached. We see Jesus healing beggars, we see Jesus talking to Gentiles, women, the rich, the outcasts, the in crowd. Jesus was all inclusive. This is unfortunately the opposite of what his people represent at times.
We as little Christs are called to be agents of compassion, grace, and redemption, not law, condemnation, and judgement. It’s not the way of Christ. Christ tells us that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. That means us, that also means the corrupt men in wall street, that also means our president, that also means the homeless guy on the streets. We all too often get so caught up in divisive politics, opinions, rhetoric, and other things that take us away from the point! The point of a Christian is Christ. That must be everything to a Christians. The gospel, the good news MUST come before anything else! We can get so wrapped up in what’s around us that we quickly say “yeah I believe in Jesus but…”. There is no but, our allegiance, our views MUST reflect the Kingdom, the life of Christ as best as we can at all times. It’s a full time job, it’s radical, it goes against our instincts and feelings at times, but it must be our everything. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the only true hope for the world. Our opinions, our rhetoric, our politics are not the hope! Christ is.
A few weeks ago a tragic and devastating thing happened in our country. 26 people, including 20 children, were gunned down and killed. Even as I type this my eyes water up thinking about the devastation that happened that day. I remember reading in the news that morning that there was a reported shooting at a school. I checked the news a few hours later to read the full devastation of the events that transpired. I was absolutely wrecked. However, I was most appalled at the insensitive reactions a lot of “Christians” had on Facebook. It was not but a few hours until I saw pictures and posts saying something like “this is what happens when we kick God out of school” flood my news feed. I was so angry, furious actually that Christians would be so quick to post their ridiculous, ignorant, stupid opinion right after 20 children lost their lives. Is that really the way of Christ? To start defending our right to own a gun and to tell those families “I told you so”?. If you’re reading this and you were one of those people who posted or said anything like what I just mentioned I have three words for you; Shame on you. Shame on you for having to stick your opinion where it doesn’t belong. 26 people lost their lives and your first reaction is to tell the families why you think this happened? If Christ was here among us what do you think He would of done? The shortest verse in the Bible says it all, “Jesus wept” (The context of this verse was right after His friend Lazarus died, He went to the tomb and it is there that He wept). Jesus is one of compassion and goodness, we as little Christs should be reflecting the same.
The Gospel of Christ does not mean “your opinion and views above all others”. It means quite the opposite. It means humility, it means grace, it means compassion, it means realizing that we are all broken and in need of healing. This Gospel has been hijacked by so many things, but we must reclaim it, we must get back to the heart of the good news, and the good news is Christ and what he invites us in to. You might be saying “well that doesn’t sound very fair” and as my good friend put it from the pulpit, “fair is we all go to Hell”