As a young boy I dreamed of having a best friend. While standing outside of church one afternoon, I looked up to the sky and prayed for a friend who would be so close to me he would feel like a brother.
I had to wait anxiously until my junior year of high school for this dream to come true. When he did I was elated. He taught me how to throw a football, eat with chopsticks, and bought me a sweater that matched his favorite one. What surprised me the most was his willingness to leave the comfort zone afforded by his popularity and befriend someone like me, an outsider who was teased for being gay.
Essentially, he called me out of isolation and into a relationship that restored my relational identity. Because of him, I grew to know who I was as a relational being.
Jesus did the same thing for a tax collector, named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (Luke 19:1-10).
Zacchaeus’ community had labeled him a ‘sinner’. And I would imagine this left him feeling not only isolated, but utterly resentful. With pockets full of money and a heart emptied of any connectedness, Zacchaeus finds himself perched on a branch waiting to see Jesus.
I wish I could have been there to see the crowd as Jesus entered the city. As a Rabbi, Jesus was supposed to be entertained by the high priests, eating and drinking with the political elite of Jericho. But in front of the crowd, Jesus denies their company and invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home.
Naturally, the crowd was stunned. They questioned why Jesus wanted to be entertained by someone like Zacchaeus.
Jesus knew leaving the comfort zone afforded by his position would ratify Zacchaeus’ relational role, changing him from the inside out.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). What a powerful proclamation. Jesus was not only making a political statement, he was also demonstrating the epitome of devotion, in broad daylight!
As members of The Gay Christian Network, we have the same calling.
We exist because many of our siblings still feel alienated—not because of any moral wrongdoing, but because they have not yet learned about their true relational role. Many LGBTQIA persons and their allies have the impression they only deserve to observe Jesus from a tree in the distance.
And so I urge you to contemplate your role in God’s mission. Wherever you might find yourself—at work, shopping for food, preparing for conference -- you may rub shoulders with another Zacchaeus. And it may be that a relationship with you might just change their relational identity.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today,” what a posture of unceasing love we shall all embrace.
You are part of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16). And you are capable of giving the gift of belonging. We exist to create a space where the Zacchaeuses of the world can finally internalize the powerful meaning of the statement, “I belong.”
- Who do I know that may be living in a tree of isolation?
- How can I contribute to the universal ministry of Christ? In other words, how is my life a living resource for the lost, marginalized, and oppressed?
- How am I made to contribute to the building up of a supportive community?