During my second year in youth ministry, I became in charge of the Confirmation process for 8th graders. The final event prior to the Confirmation Ceremony was a weekend retreat. Over this 48 hour period, one girl made a complete transformation. Prior to this decision, she was cruel, mean and wrecked many relationships throughout the church. Thus, when she made a commitment to dedicate her life to the Lord, several of her peers got angry at God.
So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. 6 So he hurried and came down, and he received and welcomed Him joyfully. 7 And when the people saw it, they all [a]muttered among themselves and indignantly complained, He has gone in to be the guest of and lodge with a man who is devoted to sin and preeminently a sinner, Luke 19:4-7.
On one first century visit to Jericho, Jesus encountered a similar situation. A short corrupt tax collector climbed a tree tried to get Jesus’ attention. Whatever Zacchaeus did to get recognized worked as Jesus left the crowd to have a private meeting at his house. Knowing Zacchaeus’ horrible reputation, members of the crowd questioned why in the world that Jesus would want to spend any time with this crook. Before even entering into a conversation, the community got upset with the possibility of God’s grace.
And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests, Acts 9:20-21.
The apostle Paul experienced this judgment following his conversion on the Road to Damascus. As a former persecutor of Christians and who oversaw the death of the apostle Steven, first century Christians were afraid of Paul. Some believed this was merely a plot to infiltrate the church. If it wasn’t for Barnabas who earned the nickname as the son of encouragement, Paul would have been banned from the church. Therefore, the next time someone in your church gets upset by God’s grace, be willing to give others a second chance with a heart of forgiveness and mercy.
by Jay Mankus