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Recompense or Repentance (Part II)

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  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.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19: 1-9

Zacchaeus was hated by his countrymen for being a traitor and working for the governing authorities against his own people. He was shunned by the people, and he was certainly in no position to ask those around him to get in front of the crowd to see Jesus. But he was curious and desperate enough that he was willing to climb a tree and have a look at Jesus.

When Jesus saw him, He knew that this man was searching and seeking for the truth. Jesus called him by name, and told him that He wanted to stay at his house. Zacchaeus rushed down to receive Jesus joyfully! This could have been the first time that someone used his name in a positive context and showed their acceptance of him. He was elated in being accepted and received by the Lord! While those watching were furious with Jesus for choosing to spend time with the despised Zacchaeus, Jesus had the heart to see this man restored to his true identity!

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

The Lord has been longsuffering towards all of us, but we can never confuse His longsuffering with His approval of our behavior or lifestyle. While on the surface it looked as if Jesus was accepting of Zacchaeus’ lifestyle of extortion, Jesus was after his repentance! By Jesus reaching out to Zacchaeus, it caused him to recognize the goodness and lovingkindness of God, and it convicted him to change!

Zacchaeus confessed his sins by declaring that he was going to give away half of his wealth to the poor, and he was going to restore fourfold to anyone that he had cheated and stolen from! This was a total transformation in this man’s life! If he were to restore someone’s stolen property, it would have meant that he needed to confess his sin to those he had falsely accused, restore his relationship with them to some degree, and then pay them back fourfold. It also meant that he would have had to change his lifestyle and career and give up being a tax collector for the Romans. He also gave up his wealth in order to be in the right relationship with God and with others!

This is the difference between God’s recompense versus the Lord seeking repentance. Zacchaeus could have easily assumed that he was so special that Jesus chose to come to his house. He could have also claimed that God was recompensing  Zacchaeus for the bad behavior he had endured from the hands of the Jewish people. To the contrary, Zacchaeus saw God’s lovingkindness through Jesus and caused him to wake up to his true sin condition. He realized that had been wrong about the treatment of his countrymen.

Sometimes, when God is good to us,  it is not because we were right or that he is paying us back for others’ bad behavior. Instead, He is doing it to show us our true condition through His love. The Lord is always after restoring us to truth and to turn us in love towards Him and towards the people we have hurt or offended. If we were wrong on how we treated others or falsely accused people, we need to confess those sins to the Lord and have the courage to restore what we damaged due to our insecurities or selfish reasons!

We live in a world that has insatiable desire to blame others for every wrong, and people have no interest to change or to take responsibility for their part. Unfortunately, this is also true in the body of Christ, but it should not be so! We should be courageous people who are willing to see ourselves in the mirror of the word of God and take responsibility for our sins and shortcomings. We may not have the 100% of the blame for something that happened, but we did our part to contribute to the problem. Therefore, we can do our part to make it right and allow the Lord to show us how we can be part of the restoration process. Those we have hurt or offended may not receive us, but we can show lovingkindness and longsuffering just as Jesus has shown towards us. We can allow the Lord to convict them to change in due time!

Have you experienced God’s mercy today? Has He been undeservingly kind to you? Is He calling you to turn to Him or to restore a relationship that is broken? What is required of you to restore a right relationship with the Lord and with others?