Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Must a Person Do Before We Begin to Pull for Him or Her?

Photo by Andy Bullock (Flickr)
Ssssplack!

Zacchaeus wiped the spit off his face – for the fourth time that morning. Nobody liked him. Nobody – except for the other tax collectors, of course.

Until Jesus entered his life. He sought him out, saying, “Zacchaeus, I want to spend some time with you. Let’s go to your house!”

And soon, Zacchaeus’s heart – and his life - changed!

The same man who had built a career cheating his neighbors, joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home. After spending time with Jesus, he pledged to give half of his goods to the poor and to pay back four times the amount he stole. (read his remarkable story in Luke 19:1-9)

Zacchaeus went from being a dishonest greedy man – hated by his own people, to a sincere and  generous man – probably well-liked and respected by his community.

What changed Zacchaeus? We all quickly answer, “Jesus! It was Jesus!” Good answer. However, I didn’t ask who changed the man. I asked what transformed Zacchaeus’ heart?

This week’s verse offers a hint:
Luke 6:36 (New American Standard Bible)
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Perhaps for the first time in many years, instead of experiencing coldness, judgment and hate, Zacchaeus experienced genuine compassion, understanding and love. The mercy that was shown to him by Jesus, even before Zaccheaus began to change his behavior, enabled Zaccheaus to make different choices.

And most likely, Zaccheaus grew to see himself differently, too.

Would you please take time to consider if these questions relate to you?

1. After asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, is it time to confess our shameful tendency to look down at and judge those we consider worse sinners than we consider ourselves?

2. Are we willing to allow God to help us see others as He sees them even before there’s evidence of a changed life? What about the person who doesn’t want to change?

3. Or will we continue pointing our fingers and wagging our tongues until the person does something to deserve our compassion and support?

If that’s the criteria, what must a person accomplish before we begin to pull for her or hope the best for him?

What if:
• We prayed for the person who has taken steps in a wrong direction, or is caught up in bad behavior?
• We got involved as God leads when we see signs that someone is spiraling downward?

How might our churches and communities benefit? 

Prayer:
Lord, it is not hard for me to see how much I need Your help regarding my sinful judgmental attitudes. Please forgive me! And give me a heart like Yours which grieves when someone is going through a difficult time due to his or her choices. Show me ways to show mercy while offering practical help.

This week’s goal: (And Practical Applications)
This week, while meditating on (with the intent to memorize) Luke 6:36, I will ask God to convict my heart each time I begin to judge or look down upon anyone. I will also ask God to show me practical ways I can reach out to those He leads me to help and pray for.

For instance, when I receive a phone call about a negative report regarding someone I know, instead of giving into the temptation to add to the gossip,  I will ask the caller to join me in prayer for that person and discuss what practical things we could do to restore him or her.

What do you think? I would love to have a real conversation about this topic!

• How do you think Zaccheaus started his day the morning after spending time with Jesus?

• What are some practical ways we can show God’s mercy to those caught in the consequences of their bad or sinful choices?

• What part(s) of this post zings you the most?

(Post your comments on one or several points mentioned using the comment link. Click on the Sharing Guidelines tab for instructions on how to post comments)

Note: Memorizing Scripture Blog (for anyone) and the Coffee with Sheryl blog (for ladies) both have the Current Goals tab located under the blogs' headers. "Current Goals" offers several practical links including: being a better spouse or parent, choosing better eating and exercising habits, overcoming addictions, dealing with depression, etc. The Immediate Goals link (for setting task-related goals) is only available at the Coffee with Sheryl Blog

You may use pseudonyms(fake names).

2 comments:

  1. I really like your questions and your conclusions regarding our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors towards others who we may view as not living right. We certainly need to make provision for Grace to operate in their lives and for the Holy Spirit to do the convicting of people's hearts.

    "What changed Zacchaeus?"

    Very provoking question Sheryl. And I think many of us who have made many wrong choices can attest to the importance of having someone who will reach out in non-judgmental compassion and accept us where we are (with all our dirt, filth and grime). I think we frequently think (for their own good) they need to show they are at least trying. We can't always tell when someone is trying. Their behavior man not look like trying to us. Of course we need to be careful that we aren't going overboard in the wrong direction and loving them to death either. We need to tell them the Truth with Love; and, sometimes we may even need to back away for a bit. But even then we must be sure that it is understood that they can come to us. That we won't turn them away. We can't do any of this appropriately and balanced without seeking God's lead. Even Joshua messed up big time being nice and offering a peace treaty to men who asked him for one because it sounded like the right thing to do. (The men were lying to Joshua). That is a greater reminder for us to Always seek God and not just what seems right.

    It is certainly difficult to start walking a completely new path around others who don't seem to believe that even with God's miraculous intervention we could change. I think our faith in God's ability to change someone can have a profound impact on their faith being stirred up. And that could very well be a key factor. I think baby Christians and weaker Christians sometimes (feed off our faith). We need to have faith to feed them.

    When we give up on someone who keeps blowing it, I think they often hear that it is pointless and they aren't going to make it and we are wasting our time investing in them. Isn't that pretty much what Satan is telling them also? (Why bother, see you obviously aren't going to make it)?

    I know I heard that voice in my head a lot. If we give up on them they may very likely give up on themselves. I know I came close to that many times but you never seemed to throw in the towel. You reminded me of that song: "I Fall Down, I Get up Again." At least that was what you were always telling me to do. Satan said stay down you are finished. And I always thought you were going to agree with him; but you never did. You always said, "Get back up!" Or something like that. So yes Sheryl, I hear what you are saying and I so agree with you!

    I love your "What if" questions, your prayer, and practical applications you listed! We really do need a lot more Mercy and Truth operating in our lives and our churches. And I am at the top of the list of those who needed this reminder. Thanks Sheryl!

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  2. Barbara, you are most welcome! And I also thank you for the time you gave giving your comment. I am glad you reminded us that we can't always tell if a person is trying (so hang in there with them - but depending on the Holy Spirit to guide us!) Your comment is filled with amazing and candid insight.

    Thank you for the compliments, too, Barbara. Your kind words encourage me to keep writing.

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