Loved and Loving

Michael Beck

“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Zacchaeus was a hated man. Why? Because he cared only about himself. Like most of the tax collectors of his day, he had no qualms about using his position to rip off his neighbors. How was it that Jesus would select this scoundrel, of all people, to have dinner with? Zacchaeus himself was astonished.

The truth is – to become loving people we must be loved. The love we need must go beyond our loveliness; it must be a love we are shown in the full knowledge of of our ugliness.

Condemnation doesn’t change anyone. It may drive them further into criminality – “You think I’m no good; I’ll show you what being no good is about!” Jesus did for Zacchaeus what no blaming or shaming could ever do. It touched his hard heart in a way he couldn’t explain. The effect was to infuse a care into his heart for those he previously despised and exploited.

Sensitivity toward God produces sensitivity toward man. Loving the God who first loved us turns us inside out – we go from “me-centric” to “you-centric;” from being takers to givers; even doing good to those who hate us.

Saul of Tarsus also knew what it like to be hated. Before the kindness and love of God toward him appeared, he was “hated and hateful.” (Titus 3:3,4) But after his encounter with a merciful and gracious Christ, he was loved and loving.

We can wait and wait and wait for people to change – to become more kind, thoughtful, and considerate. Nothing we say or do moves them to be any different. They need a heart change and only Jesus can give that to them. And He does it not by hating them, but by loving them, even while they are still in their sins and at their most unloveliest. Have hope – Jesus still chooses to dine with sinners.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.