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. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:5–10
Somehow, the message of Jesus, the message of salvation, has gotten messed up. How do I know? Ask anyone on the street what they think Jesus said about eternal life, heaven and hell and you will likely hear something like “people who do good go to heaven and that people who do bad go to hell.” People have come to believe that our eternal destination is determined, in essence, by a weighing, a tipping the scale with heaven as reward for one tipped toward “good’ behaviors and hell to those whose scales tips toward “bad” ones.
The problem is that Jesus said the exact opposite.
During Lent, we have been working a process to live into our Call to Freedom by asking God and others to join us as we search our hearts to uncover the thought patterns and behaviors that have more power over us than we intended to give them and so rob us of the freedom God desires for us. The danger as we take inventory of our behaviors, however, is that we will be tempted to reduce the solution to behavior management. I say we “will be tempted,” because that is exactly what this is. The enemy of God will tempt us to focus on behaviors because behaviors are never the problem, and so correcting them will never — in itself — heal us. The problem is that we need Jesus, all of Jesus. We need, what Brennan Manning calls a “ruthless trust,” what I might call a desperate trust, desperate for God to search me and move me toward freedom, because it is only God who knows me well enough and loves me fully enough to empower me to live the more and better life he has promised me.
We need to choose to reject the lie of salvation by behavior management even as we search our behaviors and move toward freedom. We need to reclaim the message of Jesus who invites us to choose to trust him. The choice is between being controlled by things that are outside of our control, that do not seek our good but rather seek their own good (and frankly could care less about what happens to us) or desperately trusting the one who actually is in control, the one who actually does seek your good, 100% of the time 24/7 — the author and sustainer of life, your creator, the one who knows you better than you know yourself. That’s the choice. It is a choice that is ultimately not about the behaviors, which are merely symptoms of not living into the reality that in Jesus we are fully known and fully loved, forgiven and invited into a life free of burdens and anxious strivings.
Peace, hope and love