Imagine your sibling needs medicine for a chronic medical condition. Your family struggles to make ends-meet, and the needed medication is expensive. Through creative budgeting tactics your family is barely able to afford the daily doses. The average pressure of this predicament is stressful, but to make matters worse there is a brutal chief tax collector named Zacchaeus in your province; and though you’ve budgeted for your tax bill, Zacchaeus regularly extorts extra for himself. Zacchaeus does not use the money he steals from your family to pay his bills, provide for his family, or procure resources for the poor …he’s simply selfish with it. He buys an additional television, he obtains an extra computer monitor, he spends your money on uber eats everyday using the dollars he steals from you. Your family isn’t able to afford food, medicine, shelter, and clothing; and your sibling suffers. Your sibling dies. Zacchaeus continues to cultivate a life of opulence via oppression. The stories of suffering at the hands of Zacchaeus increase, and every sphere of society is permeated with bitter experiences of distress caused by this chief tax collector. There is one thing that everyone in your community agrees upon …Zacchaeus is the worst! He has cheated and wounded so many people, and we all concur that he is beyond saving.
Now, for just a moment, imagine that you are Zacchaeus. You are aware of the fact that you’re abusive, and at times you even experience pains of conscience. You slowly grow weary of your oppressive and overly-indulgent way of life, and you start wishing that you had friends. But everyone hates you. Your life is reduced to self-loathing. Then one day God befriends you. Now you have a friend! …but everyone still hates you; and everyone hates God for being your friend. So here’s what you got – – – > (1) a history of abusing people, (2) people’s hatred, (3) God’s friendship. Which of these will you choose to obsess about?
Option #1: stare at your sins, and wallow in self-loathing.
Option #2: stare at your sins, wallow in self-loathing, and ‘hope’ that people see how sorry you seem to be …and thereby ‘earn’ their pity, and ‘achieve’ some superficial semblance of societal ‘acceptance.’
Option #3: addictively accept God’s friendship, and let the societal opinion cookie crumble …and then put those cookie crumbs on ice cream and invite anyone and everyone interested in unmerited friendship with God over to your house for an ice cream social. And live everyday in the freedom of your friendship with God; entering the joy of God, and engaging in the economics of God’s Kingdom, which are summed up by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their ditty “Give It Away” – – – > “Realize I don’t want to be a miser, Confide with sly you’ll be the wiser, Young blood is the lovin’ upriser, How come everybody want to keep it like the Kaiser, I can’t tell if I’m a kingpin or a pauper, Greedy little people in a sea of distress, Keep your more to receive your less, Unimpressed by material excess, Love is free love me say hell yes, There’s a river born to be a giver, Keep you warm won’t let you shiver, His heart is never gonna wither, Come on everybody time to deliver, Give it away give it away give it away now, Give it away give it away give it away now, Give it away give it away give it away now.” Freedom is found in incessantly receiving the gift of God’s friendship as the most defining and dominate reality of your life; and subsequently everyday participating in the importing, subversive work, and extremely odd economics of God’s Everlasting Kingdom.
How does a guy like Zacchaeus avoid living in a state of constant self-loathing, and incessant preoccupation with unpopularity? How does a guy like King David publish Psalm 51 knowing that Uriah’s siblings are out there somewhere fuming with hatred toward him for what he did to their brother; and the fact that he’s now married to their former sister ‘n law!?! How does Peter recover after making such lofty and arrogant declarations of loyalty to Jesus, followed by immediate, flagrant, and repetitious abandonments and denials of knowing Jesus? – – – > Option #3.