Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 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.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10 (ESV)
Every day, sometimes twice a day I travel on a road that is a mix of highways. It starts out as Business 41, then merges with US 41 and US 19. At that intersection, I merge from the right hand lane, but in less than a quarter mile, I must be in the middle or left hand lane as the road forks splitting 41 and 19. My route home takes me on US 19 to the left. As I merge into traffic from the right, I have very little time to get into position to go left. If drivers already on US 41 and 19 do not give me space, I miss taking the left fork and end up going right. Most of the time, they are kind, slowing down or moving over to let me in, but sometimes, I encounter big trucks with an attitude and a loud horn or tail gating sports cars that refuse to move aside. Then, I have to go out of my way making the turn to get back on the main road further north at a stoplight where I have more room to maneuver. Kindness can take us so much farther than hatred which is a roadblock. Jesus was the definition of kindness and in his three years of ministry talked more about love than he did about sin. Oh, yes, he was firm on sin and not afraid to speak the truth to sinners like the religious church leaders who put rules over people. But, much of Jesus’ teaching tells of the way of love: love God, love your neighbor, go the extra mile, give all you have to the poor, feed my sheep, be kind, forgive. Take the story of Zacchaeus. Our pastor preached on him on Sunday and told how it was not until Jesus showed him love and mercy that Zacchaeus changed and repented of his sins. Jesus didn’t cause the sycamore tree to crack knocking a limb into Zacchaeus’ head. Instead, he said, “Let’s eat dinner together.” It was Jesus’ willingness to walk with Zacchaeus and build a relationship with him that got Zacchaeus’ attention. In the reflection of Jesus’ kindness, Zacchaeus saw his own sin. I am a sinner, too. Just ask my family. I overbook my calendar and ignore relationships. I overfeed myself and fail to care for my health. I overspend and am a poor steward of what God has given me. But, it is to the people with whom I have a relationship with, those who love me, that can speak to me of my sin and get my attention. My friends. My family. The ones who walk with me, eat with me, laugh with me and cry with me. Those who love. We are all travelling together. Some of us go a different way than others. But, kindness on that road or in relationships earns us the right to speak the truth to each other. Not a blowing horn or a threatening gesture.