“[Jesus] has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled (v.7).
Chinese performance artist Liu Bolin is known as “the invisible man” or “the human chameleon” because he blends himself into his surroundings. To do this, he covers his entire body in paint which perfectly matches his chosen backdrop. Liu has painted himself into real-life scenes which include graphitized walls, supermarket shelves, and even telephone booths.
As Christians, we sometimes try to walk the line between blending in with the world around us and standing out as citizens of a straight-laced subculture. Becoming worldly may make us ineffective witnesses for Christ, while preaching from a holier-than-thou standpoint can isolate us from people who need God’s grace.
Zacchaeus developed a godly set of convictions shortly after meeting Jesus. Interestingly, this was not the result of any lecture from Christ. When Zacchaeus volunteered to “give [the people] back four times as much” as he had wrongly taken from them (Luke 19:8), Jesus celebrated his change of heart (v.9). Although there is certainly a time to confront sinful words and behavior (Matthew 12:38; John 2:15), we can be gentle and gracious with people who see their need for God (Luke 7:44; John 8:4).
Although Jesus engaged with sinful people, He never participated in their sin. He visited Zacchaeus’ home, but He didn’t go into business with him or accept shady money from the “notorious sinner” (Luke 19:7). Jesus had a greater influence on Zacchaeus than what the “chief tax collector” (v.2) had on Him. When we befriend unbelievers, we should consider how we might lift them up, rather than changing our convictions to match theirs (Psalms 1:1).
If we follow Jesus’ lead when it comes to relating to the people and culture around us, we’ll find the right balance between being inthe world but not of it (John 15:19).
—Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Is it more dangerous to get too close to the world or to be too far removed? How can we avoid the spiritual pride that results in harshness toward nonbelievers?