When Jesus sat in the home of the thieving tax collector, sharing his fine wine and eating his food, the overly righteous scoffed. The opinion of the majority was of little concern to our Lord. The taxman who was collecting more than required; stealing money from his own people to furnish his lavish lifestyle, underwent serious conviction. This utterly despised soul by the masses, was gently called on the carpet by his Creator. He had to decide to either change and go a different way, or continue down the wrong path. At stake was the man’s soul and his eternal destination.
Fortunately, he chose to give his heart to Jesus. He paid back all of the money he overcharged. Collecting taxes along with other roles in government to sustain a land, is a privilege and an honor God bestows on certain persons. Yet instead of doing good, this gentleman abused his authority and lost all integrity. Jesus could have left him in his dirty state, and passed his house by to spend time with someone a tad bit more “worthy”. But Jesus does not hold our bias, and He is in the business of changing hearts and lives, whether we think that individual is worthy of being shown grace, mercy and offered a second chance or not. More and more, the world is filling up with seared hearts that feel entitled, are selfish, arrogant, prideful and greedy, inflicting gobs of frustration and pain to those around them.
People who want to live life on their own terms, forgetting that one day they will meet their Maker. When Jesus spoke to the taxman, He did it in a way where He was still kind, whether He was angry, sad or disappointed. Somehow the misconception that anger is a bad emotion or sinful, periodically circles the Christian community. But anger regarding injustice is often appropriate and needed to promote change in many situations. Furthermore, it is a God given emotion. Jesus was so angry over stealing outside the temple that He overturned tables and drove folks right out of the courtyard. Yet, He was without sin.
We are asked to be SLOW to anger, but once we get to that stage and finally push back, we should do so without sinning. I am learning that is not an easy task. Anytime you deal with an individual or a group of people who continually choose to do the wrong thing at every turn, patience can run thin, and kindness can vanish. Sometimes I am convicted and tasked with having to go back and apologize for moments of unkindness that happened while speaking or writing the truth.
Sometimes it takes all of Christ in me not to cuss at the three ring circus that goes on around me. But God wants more than exerted self control, He wants us to see folks how He sees them. To stand for what is right, but with a heart of compassion and mercy. The Scriptures declare that all of creation is awaiting the children of God to be revealed. This means there are more souls that need to come to know Jesus, and it starts with being convicted of our need for Him. Heaven is watching to see who will accept the offer of salvation from Jesus who died and rose again for our sins. In the meantime, God is waiting for folks to step up and not turn a blind eye to what is happening.
Culture may change, He does not. It is still wrong to lie, cheat and steal. It is still wrong to bruise your neighbor physically and emotionally. It is still wrong to try to sabotage in the open or behind closed doors, those that are merely trying to get on in life. God’s agenda boils right down to issues of the heart. Do you love people? Do you love yourself? Do you love people like you love yourself? Do you love God? Is your love of God reflected in your love for mankind? How do you treat animals and the earth He made? God looks down and searches for the soul that will “…seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.”
Believe me, I would rather apologize 1,000 times for fumbling up an attempt to address a wrong than to one day face the Lord and be deemed a coward for being silent in things that mattered. He knows my heart, and He knows yours. My sincere prayer is that everyone I encounter, despite how they have treated me or my family, good or bad, or any mistakes I have made in my interactions with them, will still come to know Jesus in a personal way. Anyone that truly knows the Lord, will change for the better and be willing to continue to grow and aspire to be more like Him, not a walking talking set of churchy rules (churchy… new word), but like HIM. The Bible says to make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. The days ARE growing evil, because more hearts prefer the dark over Him.
One day you will run out of time. You will not have any more chances to whisper a prayer to Jesus and ask Him to be your Savior (that is all it takes), opportunities to live on purpose and do the right thing, to use your talents and abilities to serve, to speak up for the underdog, to forgive, to apologize, to refine yourself to be more like Christ will be gone. This week, let’s pray that no house is passed by because we think someone is unworthy. We are all in this together to fight the good fight and run the race as to win. Speak the truth and live with honor as all of heaven is listening and watching. God is good! Always!