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.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Luke 19:8-10 (NIV)
In Luke 17:21, Jesus declares that “the Kingdom of God is within you.” Curious, eh? What could it possibly mean? After all, we’re used to thinking that the Kingdom of God is just a synonym for Heaven, and of course everyone knows that Heaven is a fabulous place good people go to when they die. Right?
The more I read and learn about Jesus, about the way he lived and how he spoke, the more I am convinced that we have gotten it wrong. If I were to paraphrase the message I’ve been getting from the Baptist church, it would go something like this:
“The aim of life is to get into Heaven when you die, and to try and bring others with you. In the meantime, God wishes for you to be happy, healthy and comfortable. There are missionaries to do the dirty work – you should be content to live an otherwise secular life, and see who you can influence within that sphere of living.”
You can see the message is getting through – just look at all the hip, trendy young Christians with their snazzy threads and iPods, living in large houses and driving the latest car. Of course they don’t care where the materials for their possessions were mined or collected – that millions of people the world over are forced off their land and eventually die for the sake of consumerism – and the question of who assembles the items is only starting to be asked. And if God wants us to have these things, surely he doesn’t care either!
Jesus tells us our greatest commandments are to love God and love neighbour (Mark 12:29-31). Who are our neighbours? In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we find that often it is the people we would least expect – those we have been conditioned to despise or overlook. The sinners, the homeless, the poor, the destitute, the refugees, the imprisoned – those crying out for love and mercy both in our own country and overseas. These are our neighbours, who we are called to love.
What does the Kingdom of God look like in our world today? Mother Theresa is one of the best examples of how we can do the will of God by not keeping his Kingdom locked up inside of ourselves, but unleashing it on the world and bringing about radical change in his name.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Does that sound like fun? Does it sound easy? Does it sound like witnessing to those in your cushy workplace or friendship circle and thinking your work is done? Does it sound like living a comfortable middle-class life while billions around the world are struggling to survive?
Jesus only used the word “salvation” once, and it was in reference to the heart transformation Zacchaeus underwent. Zacchaeus went from being selfish and greedy, cheating people through scam taxing, to dying to self and dedicating himself to God’s will by serving the poor. Imagine the result if every Christian went through a similar transformation.
Image source: http://mother-theresa.blogspot.com/