Friday, April 8, 2016

Zacchaeus was a wee little thief, crook and swindler. But Jesus loved him.

My world was once colored extremely black and white. If I was on one side of an issue, anyone on the other side must just be wrong. Period.

Life chipped away at some of my rigidity even before the triplets were born. I worked in a children's home in Chicago and met statistics with faces and names who shook up my thinking on many levels.

Then my tiny babies were born. Perhaps the biggest lesson of parenting is that we have no idea how little we know about anything until another human (or in my case three) are completely dependent on us. And as they grow and perhaps become less dependent physically, they are still looking to us to help them form ideals, moral compasses, and their worldview in general. And all of a sudden, my rigid views were examined, questioned (nothing like "why? why? why? one after another to make you delve into your own psyche!) and explored and this amazing thing happened -- I began to grow and change and begin to examine my own "whys" and seek my personal compass,  Biblical scripture, to back up my world views.

A few years ago a group we belonged to virtually, began to implore us and our peers to call our congressmen to reject United State's ratification of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I was instantly indignant. Much of the reasoning of our virtual organization opposed things that are vital to my boys. And frankly, I felt the convention might actually help other countries achieve a similar level of accessibility as America.

I bring this up today because I need you to understand that every single time one of my friends shared the mandate to contact our senators, I read "fight this issue because we really hate Carol and her boys."  I heard, "Call now before life is made easier for Carol's children. We hate them." The hate was the message over and over and over again.

Now trust me, no one actually typed that. And if you questioned them they were simply standing for their own personal freedoms that they feared would be trampled if the United States ratified the convention. (Sound familiar?)

As a result, I walked around for months with my feelings hurt. I could barely talk to real-life friends who were also members of this organization because I felt so betrayed, so hurt, so hated.

I hope you are hearing me.

My beloved state of Mississippi has been all over the news this week because the legislature and the governor decided there are not enough REAL issues facing our state (who ranks last in almost everything). No, they decided to make up some issues and created a "religious freedom act" which basically says that a business owner can refuse service to anyone they feel doesn't align with their religious convictions. Oh mercy. Because we need to know everybody's sexual orientation before we sell them coffee, flowers, cakes? Really?

There is language that even allows businesses to refuse Benjamin and I the right to use the same restroom because we are not the same sex. I can not even tell you how awful that could make life for us!

But the worst part is that I KNOW that every member of this particular targeted community has heard exactly what I heard a few years back....I hate you. I hate your family. You don't deserve to be in this business. Hate. Hate. Hate.

And oh goodness that breaks my heart. It beaks my heart. 

And the fact that this is colored as if it is to protect religious freedom makes me physically nauseous.

In Luke 19, Jesus is entering Jericho and passes by a man who has climbed a tree to get a better view of him -- you've heard this story, right?  Jesus looks up into the tree and commands the man to come down so they may have supper together.

Now y'all may not know that the little short man up in the tree is Zacchaeus, a tax-collector. And let me assure you that saying he is a collector of taxes is putting it kindly. He collected far more. According to the laws, as long as he gave the government their due, he could charge tax-payers whatever he wanted -- and Zacchaeus had been doing just that for years. He was a very rich man thanks to his cheating and stealing. But Jesus, our LORD -- God come to earth as man -- wanted to serve him, to give him the honor of dining together.

Good gracious I am glad they were in Jericho, because the restaurants in Mississippi might not have let them in!!

Know what Zacchaeus did when Jesus offered that act of hospitality? Let's look: 

"Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

To which Jesus replied "Today, salvation has come to this house." (Luke 19:8, 9a)

I read it multiply times this morning. Never once did Jesus turn his nose up and walk away because he disagreed with Zacchaeus's business practises. Never once. He didn't shun him because he stole for a living. He didn't ostracize him because he was actually hurting people. No. Never. He fellowshipped with him and it changed Zacchaeus. Changed him.

Could we just stop the hate already? Could we open our arms in welcome to those different than us? Can we possibly leave judgment to the One who truly knows right from wrong, righteous from unrighteous, and hypocrite from genuine? 

Really, our lines don't have to be black and white. Sometimes the color of grace -- of loving even when we don't fully agree on an issue -- is gray.

Carol - The Blessings Counter


Renee Esparza said...

When I married Phillip and we moved to Connecticut, I had a very difficult time there. My world was black and white too. I learned so much those 3 years we lived there. My world widened and I realized that Jesus doesn't require things to be a certain way. He loves all people.