“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” (Luke 19.5-6)
What would Jesus say to you if you had the opportunity to have dinner with him?
In Luke 19 Jesus has dinner with a tax collector named Zacchaeus, and the topic of that meal was spiritual lostness. “I have come to seek and save what was lost,” Jesus tells him. But how Jesus defined lost is different than how I think most of us do.
Jesus consistently taught that there was not one way to be lost, but two. You could be lost by breaking the rules, and you could be lost by keeping the rules. To be found – according to Jesus – is to put your faith in God through him for the purposes of being forgiven of sin and to surrender to the will of God. To be lost is to refuse or to be unwilling to do one of those.
Being lost by breaking the rules is much easier to spot. This is the person that wants to live according to their guidelines and values, and neither sees the need for salvation for sin nor desires to surrender their life to God. But being lost by keeping the rules seems to be much more difficult to detect, for their outward behaviors seem to match those of a ‘found’ person.
But Jesus time and again pointed to religious people and attempted to help them to see that they were just as lost as the ‘sinners’ that they were in turn pointing their fingers at. Like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus warned these religious types that keeping the rules can be as spiritually toxic as breaking them. If the motivation for keeping the rules is justifying yourself to God, then they too refused to acknowledge the centrality of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. And if the desired outcome of obedient living is to put God in our debt, then we too resist the call to truly surrender to God.
The great news is that Jesus is coming after all of us who are lost. He knocks at the door of our heart. He asks to be brought into the life and rhythms of who we are. Let us be like Zacchaeus and run to the one who comes after us.
(To listen to the sermon on this click here)
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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