Let me tell you a story:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
This is the story of Zacchaeus, the infamous tax collector. Because he was a tax collector, no one in Jericho wanted to associate with him. He was called a ‘sinner’ by the people, a term at the time that was pretty derogatory. Any person such labled was banned from entering the synagogue, and at the time, it was legally forbidden for anyone to share a meal with a sinner.
Though he was wealthy beyond compare, he was the lowest of the low. No one wanted to look at him, talk to him, care about him, or love him, because of who he was.
But here’s the cool thing: Jesus wanted to. The man that everyone wanted to see took the time to see the person no one wanted to see. Jesus called Zacchaeus by his name, which no one would have done. Jesus even shared a meal with him. Jesus built a relationship with this outcast, and loved him, because ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’. Zacchaeus was pretty dang lost, but Jesus found him.
Okay, that’s a cool story and all. But it’s really hard to be Jesus to the lost and the outcast.
Boy, ain’t that the truth. But if we’re followers of Christ, do we have a choice? Jesus showed unapologetic compassion, and accepted unacceptable people. So why can’t we? I know it’s uncomfortable and awkward and hard. But you can choose comfort, or you can choose courage; you can’t choose both. And, if you’re unwilling to take risks for God, you can not expect incredible things. Period.
Let me tell you another story. Do not give me the praise or congratulate me. All the glory goes to God in this story.
At my job, there is a customer who no one wants to see or acknowledge. Whenever she comes in, she is usually grumbling or complaining, and swearing. She has strong opinions and will tell them to whoever will *pretend to* listen. As she comes through self-checkout (which is where I work the most), I used to be incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy whenever she would come through. I interacted with her as little as possible.
I even once saw one of my coworkers walk away from her when she was talking, and when I asked if she needed further help (as is my training), I was told that this customer was talking just to talk. My coworker was annoyed, but it seemed that this was normal-this customer having those she’s talking to, walk away.
My heart broke. Firstly because, well it’s just plain rude to walk away from someone who is talking to you. But also because this customer, when she saw that, just hung her head and walked out of the store.
Guys, at that moment, I could see as plain as day that this customer was lonely and just needed someone to talk to. It was as if God had opened the eyes in my heart and I saw someone who no one else wanted to see.
From then on, whenever she came through self-checkout, I would smile at her. If she wants to talk, I engage in her conversation with patience and compassion. I’ve heard part of her story, and she’s not married. She doesn’t have kids, but works two jobs for long hours to pay her bills. She loves the Newsboys and the God’s Not Dead movies, and those gummy peach rings. She truly is lonely, and God has given me the grace and compassion to be her friend. Again, please do not praise me for this. It’s only through God that I can do this, and have this story to tell.
And guys, God is making a difference in this story. Whenever this customer sees me, she smiles or laughs, and says ‘hi’. She’s talked to me about all kinds of stuff and calls me ‘friend’ (even if it is just a casual greeting).
One day, she started asking me about college, and when I told I’ll be transferring to another college, she got rather sad. She asked me when I was leaving, and when I said not for another year, her face lit up. Let me make that clear- she doesn’t want me to leave. This customer, who no one would give time, enjoys my time. Because of God, I’ve been making a difference in her life, even if it is just for five minutes once or twice a week.
This customer is only one Zacchaeus. How many more are there out in the world that no one sees? And what would the world look like if we viewed them as Jesus did, with love and compassion and grace? What would happen if we accepted the unacceptable? I don’t know about you, but that’s a world I want to see.
Let’s love on every and all Zacchaeuses, because ‘every one needs compassion’, and love, and time, and to be seen. Everyone needs Jesus, and we are His hands and feet.
Ciao for now,