By Scott Gustafson
A Muslim immigrant recently lamented on his experience of acculturation into American society. He reported surprise at how cold Christians were, concluding this after not having been invited to anyone’s home for several years. The Muslim community welcomed him of course, and as a result, he became a much more devout Muslim. I am not accusing this gentleman, or all devout Muslims, of being radical… but perhaps the path might not be difficult to find in such an inhospitable environment.
Homegrown, radicalized terrorists are a growing fear, illustrated by reaction to recent events. Christians seem to be overwhelmingly reacting out of fear and isolationism. What might happen if we took the posture modeled by Jesus? Might it prevent radicalization?
Jesus illustrated this kind of intentional redemptive model for societal change in how he related to Zaccheus. Jews hated the tax collectors; they were a fixture of Roman oppression, an outside force that infiltrated their country intent on doing them harm. But Jesus visited one, in his home, and actually ate food, talked, asked questions, listened. Note the intentionality, the urgency: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” He invited himself over.
It was no accident Jesus was traveling through Jericho that day. God had evidently been after Zaccheus for awhile.
In visiting this ‘sinner’ Jesus accomplished in just one afternoon… one visit, what a whole city, in years of their ambivalence and anger towards this tax collector, failed to do. A simple visit and meal became the vehicle of redemption and social change.
The next day, Zaccheus restored fourfold to anyone he had defrauded. Imagine the headlines.
The Samaritan woman could have become a terrorist. A lifetime of being second class, hated and marginalized. But Jesus purposely traveled through her town. Jesus visits her city square, talks to this low class woman, and requests hospitality in the form of a cold drink. The interchange earns him the right to share spiritual truth, and a whole village in one afternoon is transformed. I wonder how many well-intentioned Jews at the time desired to see this very thing, but went about it with anti-Samaritan rhetoric, shaming and polarizing talk?
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