The following is a guest post from my BGC colleague, Dr. Roy Oksnevad.
The other day I met with my friend Ali. We discussed God’s redemptive work, but we talked about it from a different angle. God desires to bring us up from the shame we face in this world. The example I used was Zacchaeus taken from Luke 19.
Zacchaeus held a position in which he was shamed. He was a Jew who collaborated with the occupying rulers, and had become rich through his lying and scheming. He was hated as a collaborator with the occupiers and oppressor of his people, so he ran ahead of the crowd and hid in a sycamore tree to meet Jesus.
Jesus stopped in front of Zacchaeus and talked to him. If Jesus could see Zacchaeus, so could the crowd. We can only imagine the tension that day when Jesus walked past that tree.
But Jesus did a remarkable thing. He shifted the hostility of the crowd away from Zacchaeus and on to himself.
Jesus chose to give honor to Zacchaeus by inviting himself to spend the night with him.
The despised one becomes the honored one.
Jesus, the honored one, is now shamed for eating with a despised one.
My friend Ali’s face lit up when I talked about this. You see, Ali is a former Muslim. He is despised by his own people as someone who is a collaborator with Christians. Often, he wrestles with feelings of shame and inferiority. People in his church just do not understand what goes on internally.
But when we look at the story of Jesus, who brings great honor to Zacchaeus by going to his house to eat with him, Ali finds a friend. Jesus’ work of redemption is seen throughout his ministry—not just on the cross. This act of redemption caused Zacchaeus to become an honest man who responded with restorative justice by paying back four times the amount stolen.
Sharing Christ in culturally sensitive ways can open great doors in sharing the gospel to people who have a different worldview. Let’s do that, friends, and be like Jesus.