This message series is about exposing what is in our hearts when we criticize and judge people, especially when we don’t know all the facts.
We must be ruthless in loving people no matter who they are. Everybody is welcome in church because Jesus came to heal the sick, not the healthy; He came for sinners, not the righteous.
Today’s passage from the book of Luke shows us that we must be ruthless in loving people no matter who they are. Everybody is welcome in church because Jesus came to heal the sick, not the healthy; He came for sinners, not the righteous.
In Luke 19 a rich, hated tax collector named Zacchaeus is on the road where Jesus is about to pass by. He is too short to see over the crowd and he is hated in his society, so no one is willing to help meet Jesus. So Zacchaeus runs ahead and climbs a tree to be able to see the Lord.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” (verses 5-7)
Jesus puts his reputation on the line by associating with Zacchaeus and he doesn’t care what people think. He models for us that we should love everybody unconditionally. (This doesn’t mean that He unconditionally approves of everyone’s behavior, or that we should.) He is simply pleased with the fervent heart of Zacchaeus, who is willing to be vulnerable in order to meet with the Lord.
Many Christians, once receiving forgiveness for their sins, forget they were ever sinners! Christianity is not a “members only” snobbish country club. We are called to be light in darkness, not to hide ourselves away in permanent holy isolation. Jesus reminds us in this passage of His purpose: for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 )
1. Identify and describe any judgmental attitude you have toward loving the Zacchaeuses of the world.
Pray that God will show you any issues you have with being critical and holding back your love from non-believers. Do you believe in your own mind that you are better than they are?
We don’t have to approve of someone’s behavior in order to extend love to him or her. Our love is what defines us to the rest of the world.
2. Be willing and available to love a Zacchaeus.
You may not be a “people person,” but you are not exempt from the call to love others. If God asks you to pray for a person or give someone a ride or a meal and you reach out just as He asks, you will grow and be incredibly blessed.
Today the Rock welcomes two guests: Ron Jeremy, a 35-year veteran of the adult film industry, who is not a Christian, and Craig Gross, pastor of XXXChurch.com, a ministry that helps people who are caught up in pornography.
They are not here to debate pornography or Christianity. Our goal in welcoming someone in the porn industry is to simply love him; Jesus doesn’t love porn, but he does love porn stars.
Craig Gross shared that through the course of his ministry, he and Ron met and were asked to debate each other. They have done these debates 60-70 times in various places in the world, and thus have spent a lot of time together. Now, although they are opponents on stage, off-stage they have become friends and have spend a lot of time together outside of their debates. Ron even attended Easter services with Craig.
Ron shared about his Jewish background and faith. Though he is still very confused about Jesus, he said that he truly believes there is a Lord in heaven and that he enjoys listening to the worship music he has heard in church settings. He also shared a personal story about how God has revealed himself to Ron by safely guiding his car in what could have been a fatal accident.
Pastor Miles asked Ron to share some examples of Christians who have loved him versus Christians who have been rude and cruel to him in the name of Christ. Ron shared that the nice Christians were ones who have talked to him a lot about Jesus, answered his questions, reserved their criticism, and helped bring him closer to God.
In contrast, he has also experienced Christians holding up signs that say he will burn in hell, yelling that he is disgusting, and looking at him like he’s a monster.
Be willing to build relationships with people who are different from you. More people are interested in hearing your testimony than you realize.
Craig reminded us all that people are changed through love, not through hatred. Non-Christians are not simply a category, but people with thoughts, emotions and experiences. Miles explained that the way a Christian shares the truth is extremely important. If someone is addicted to crack, we wouldn’t kick her and call her names and then expect her to change. Instead, we would reach out and help her get rehabilitated. Our responsibility is to love others as much as we love ourselves, asking nothing in return.
Be willing to build relationships with people who are different from you. More people are interested in hearing your testimony than you realize. Sharing your faith in the context of friendship can be a very powerful thing if you are willing to reserve your criticism and reach out in love.