Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
Jesus met a man in a tree one day! A man named Zacchaeus. You’ll find the whole story in Luke 19:1-10. The story says that Jesus had arrived in Jericho and was just passing through. Apparently, Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus being in town so he climbed a tree to get a glimpse of him. Jesus meets Zacchaeus at the Tree, where mercy triumphs over judgment. Jesus meets us at the tree where mercy triumphs over judgment.
There are a couple of important things about Zacchaeus. First, he was a tax collector. According to history, Tax Collectors were not very popular. In fact, they were hated by most people. Second, Zacchaeus was rich. Add those two things together and I’m pretty sure he probably had some enemies in town. You see, you didn’t mail your taxes to the IRS back then. Instead, people like Zacchaeus collected your money for the government and usually kept some for themselves. The people looked down on this profession and treated them with disgust and hatred. They were outcasts.
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Most tax collectors were Jews working for the Roman government and so their own people viewed them as traitors. Also, most were dishonest and Zacchaeus even admitted his own dishonesty to Jesus. He was viewed as a lying, cheating, traitorous man who had gotten rich at the expense of others.
But Jesus already knew all this when He encountered Zacchaeus in the tree. Why was he in a tree? He was short and he couldn’t see over the people around him so he climbed a tree. I don’t know about you, but if some guy I had never met but knew him to be a crook, was up in a tree trying to get near me, I would probably not be that friendly! Just being honest. But, Jesus was not like me and that’s a good thing.
Jesus and Sinners
Jesus did something that seems very odd to me. When He got near the tree, Zacchaeus never even got to say a word. Instead, Jesus called up to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry down from that tree because I need to stay at your house tonight.” Luke 19:5b The Voice. There was no small talk. There was no question as to whether or not it was convenient. Jesus just told Zacchaeus what needed to happen. The Bible says Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree and joyfully took Jesus to his house! What a shock this had to be for a man who was considered to be a loser, a thief and a liar, to have Jesus call out to him! It was a joyful surprise for Jesus to extend mercy rather than judgment.
Judging Jesus for Talking to a Sinner
The next thing that happens is that the crowd becomes upset. Why? Because Jesus did not go to the home of the rich or famous. He ignored them and went to the home of the lowliest man there. Just before this story, in Luke 18, Jesus had told a rich man what he needed to do to enter the kingdom of heaven – sell all you have and give it to the poor. That man would not do it. Now Jesus encounters another rich man, whom the people view as a “notorious sinner,” and this man volunteers to repay all debts, some as much as four times what is owed. Jesus never had to say a thing to him about his sin. Jesus knew and so did Zacchaeus.
No judgment – just, “I’m coming over to your house.” The only judgment came from the offended crowd who witnessed the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus.
Extend Love and Mercy Instead of Judgment
How sad that so little has changed over the years. We are all still busy judging one another instead of getting to know each other. We still get upset when another Christian (little Christ) does something we don’t like. Jessie Synan wrote a blog called Beer in the Church: What Are Getting Wrong As Christians? I loved it because it is just like the story of Zacchaeus.
The ‘righteous’ people in Jericho felt it was wrong for Jesus to lower Himself by going to Zacchaeus house. He was a sinner. There’s a scripture that makes it clear that we are all sinners. We might be saved by grace, but we are sinners. We have been made righteous by Christ and we certainly had nothing to do with it. But somehow it’s pretty easy for us to become self-righteous like the good people of Jericho. We forget the mercy triumphs over judgment.
What Would Jesus Do? What Did Jesus Do?
The judging works both ways. The ‘offender’ judges the people they have offended and the ‘offended’ judge the offender. Then we all wear bracelets that say – What Would Jesus Do?
Read the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus and you will see what Jesus would do – what He did.
I’ve often heard people relate the sins they believe will condemn someone to a fiery eternity. They list things like homosexuality, murderers, and child abuse. Yet those same people leave other things off the list. Proverbs has a list of seven things God hates:
- Arrogance or pride.
- A Lying tongue.
- A heart that conceives evil against others.
- Feet that are quick to rush into evil.
- False witness who pours out lies about others.
- One who stirs up dissension among brothers.
Revelation 22:14-15 has a little list of people who will be outside the heavenly city – dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. For some reason, lying is one of those “sins” we seem to be prone to overlook unless it impacts us personally. Our society says it’s ok and so do we. We don’t view it as a sin worthy of eternal separation. We tolerate ‘loving and practicing lying’ it in our leaders, our churches, and ourselves.
Sin is Sin
Then there is Galatians 5:19-21,
“ Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [a]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [b]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” NASB
I’ve been in church since I was twenty-three years old. I have seen plenty of immorality, impurity, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying and more in the church starting from the top and traveling all the way through the body of Christ. Then we get upset because another Christian says they refuse to judge someone who is homosexual. At the same time, we overlook lies and greed in each other. All the sins seem to be equally “sin” in the Bible but we have even made judgments about the levels of sin, which ones we will overlook, and those we won’t. I think if some of us had been around when Jesus and Zacchaeus met, we might have been just like the people of Jericho – our nose in the air – believing we are above Zacchaeus, ignoring the fact that mercy triumphs over judgment.
What Jesus Didn’t Do
Jesus did not have one bad thing to say about Zacchaeus. Before they even got to his house, Zacchaeus had confessed his sin and Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Mercy triumphed over judgment. The key is, Jesus was going to do that no matter what. He didn’t put a condition on his visit to Zacchaeus’ home. He didn’t say, “If you repent, I’ll come over and spend some time with you.”
There was no judgment. If you are offended because I won’t confront an adulterer, that’s too bad. If I get offended because you insist I should be confronting them, too bad for me. We are each wrong about judging one another and taking offense. Mercy could triumph if we allow it to. Mercy tears down the barriers and allows us to come together in His love again. Our separation is based on our ‘judgments’ or ‘opinions’ about how we do this Christian life. Mercy allows us to love each other while fulfilling our faith differently.
Jesus went to Zacchaeus and he immediately responded to an inner conviction. He went to his house, ate his food and probably met some of his family. He got to know him. No one knows what they talked about. He had already confessed his sin to Jesus and offered to repay what he had stolen. I believe this change was sparked by the love and acceptance Jesus extended to him. Just the simple words, “Zacchaeus, hurry down from that tree because I need to stay at your house tonight.” did something to Zacchaeus. Was it because it was the first time anyone had extended kindness to him?
What if we spent less time judging and condemning and spent more time getting to know the people we are trying to judge? That would mean spending time with a sinner – like Jesus did – loving them first – accepting them without accepting their sin; and doing it all in mercy.When Zacchaeus told Jesus what he had done, Jesus simply said, Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Click To Tweet
Unconditional Love is When Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
It’s a short little story, only ten verses. It shows a Savior who extended unearned and undeserved grace; who loved unconditionally; whose powerful love changed people without a word being spoken as you will see in this article in Kingdom Bloggers. The New Testament shows the Son of God doing lots of things that offended people. He saved a woman caught in adultery and His only admonition to her was to “go and sin no more.” He never spoke a word of judgment or condemnation to the woman. Yet He had quite a bit to say to her judges! He ate dinner with sinners. His disciples were not the cream of the crop – in the opinion of the crowds. The disciple, Matthew, had been a Tax Collector. In Mark 2:15, we see Jesus and His disciples eating with tax collectors and sinners. He spent time with them! In His culture, this was a complete disgrace.
When He got mad, it was at religious hypocrites who were harming their own. In the eyes of His own people, He just didn’t do anything right. Yet, He died for them. His mercy triumphed over their judgment. This is Christian love.
I write to women in ministry who sometimes face the issue of being judged for what they do, what they say or what they teach. All of us have to remember to practice mercy no matter what.
Is It Still Possible That Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment?
You probably get my point by now. It’s a simple one. Stop judging. Stop creating factions, dissension, fighting, arguing. For heaven’s sake and for our own, we need to do what we were told to do:
“And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [o]foremost commandment.39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37- 40 NASB
We should all ask ourselves:
- How well am I doing with the greatest commandment? Am I doing it? If not, just focus on that.
- Do I love the person I think is sinning?
- Do I love them BEFORE I try to judge and correct them?
- Is it possible that love alone would be powerful enough to penetrate their heart as it did with Zacchaeus?
- Is it possible that mercy would triumph over judgment?
Let the Holy Spirit Do His Job
There is a Scripture which tells us who has the job of convicting people of sin. It is not us!
“7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the [a]Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:7-11
That is only the beginning of the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Here are some questions. Are we:
- Walking every day in the fullness of the Holy Spirit?
- Living by the Spirit as we are instructed to do?
- Allowing the Holy Spirit to develop fruit in our lives – the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians?
- Trying to do His job?
Live the First Two Commandments
I think if we concentrated on living the greatest commandment and on being led by and filled with the Holy Spirit, we might all be much different. When I say “we,” I am including myself. I catch myself being judgmental all the time. Perhaps I should say – the Holy Spirit catches me. The Spirit convicts me. It’s a frequent battle. I have preferences and others interfere with them all the time!
Live By the Spirit
Live by the Spirit. Unless you are perfect at it, stop judging. Perfectly carry out the first two commandments, then you can correct others. Get the log out of your own eye before you get all upset about the splinter in your pastor’s eye.
Yes, the Holy Spirit does His work through us. Our job is to learn to be led by Him and not our flesh. We need to work on getting that right all the time.
Let Mercy Approach Those Caught in Sin
I’m not saying that we ignore sin and just approve of everything done under the sun. I am saying, that there might be a better way to approach the people caught in the traps of the enemy. Let love and the Holy Spirit go out ahead of our words and leave the conviction and judgment to the Holy Spirit. It is NOT our job to convict. It IS our job to extend love to everyone without conditions. If Jesus hadn’t done that, you and I would be in bad shape.
If I have a friend – someone I love and have a relationship with – and I know they are sinning (adultery, theft, lying), I can, after much prayer, go talk with them. I offer my help, love, and support, don’t accuse, and don’t judge. I simply go and talk with them because I am willing to give of myself to see them restored. After I have earned the right based on our relationship, I can go and continue to love them regardless of their reaction. Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. I continue to be their friend, be there when they need me, and stay for as long as it takes.
One of the greatest examples of this is Jesus and Judas. Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer. He did it knowing what Judas had done. He ate with Judas and extended His love. In my mind, Jesus would have had every right to exclude Judas and let him know why. But Jesus saw it differently. Before He chose Judas, He knew. Jesus chose him anyway and never treated him any differently than anyone else.
Love as you have been loved. Live as He lived. Give as He gives. Be Jesus to everyone – especially the Zaccheus’s.