Do you have any savings in the bank? Perhaps you have investments in the turbulent stock market. Now imagine that a huge chunk of your money disappeared. Some people don’t have to imagine! They have experienced it first hand. Remember Bernie Madoff? He was once the chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, but he used his role as a financial advisor to cheat thousands of Americans out of billions of dollars. Yeah. That guy.
Now imagine hearing this… “Bernie!” Jesus says. “Quick, come here! I must be a guest in your home today.” What? After a meal together, Bernie’s heart is transformed by the unconditional love of Jesus and he repents and resolves to repay everyone that he has defrauded. “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham” (Luke 19:1-10). You know the story.
When my kids talk about Zacchaeus they sing the song, focus on his height and the “sycamore tree.” As adults we can easily dismiss it as a children’s story, but there is a powerful lesson here. God’s love has the power to transform lives! Thankfully my pre-schooler got that part right when I asked, “Why would Jesus go to his house and eat with him?” “Because Jesus loved him.” Yep. The mercy and grace that Jesus showed during His earthly ministry is the same mercy and grace that he shows us when we truly repent and begin living a Christ-like life.
But it doesn’t stop with us. Our calling is to invite liars, cheaters, broken, depressed and forgotten people to experience God’s transformational love through us. And before we get too proud of ourselves, we need to recognize our own brokenness and our need for a Savior. Without Jesus Christ we’d be imprisoned by our sin and up a tree somewhere. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” If God has truly transformed our hearts, brothers and sisters, loving others (even the Bernie Madoffs in the world), and seeking the lost should be our purpose too. That’s loving beyond!