He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Nicodemus and Zacchaeus
Our scriptural basis for accepting freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, oppression and injustice comes from these two powerful men whose weakness was exposed by Jesus. Nicodemus (from Sunday's scripture which can be found here) and Zacchaeus, a Jew elevated by the Roman government to tax and exploit his own people, were both men of power and means. Yet that power is the very thing that separated them from God. In fact their separation from God was intimately tied to their separation from their neighbors. turns out its very difficult to love God while standing on the throat of your fellow man. Zacchaeus did this through Roman taxation system. Nicodemus (by association as a Pharisee) did through brutal application of Hebrew law.
What's that got to do with me?
Do you participate in processes or systems that exploit people? Are you aware of the ways humans mistreat other humans? The church calls this evil. It's also known as oppression. I am complicit in oppression when I allow racism to go unchecked in my community. I am complicit in oppression when I allow my fellow worker to be mistreated by an employer. I am complicit in oppression when I allow my LGBT neighbors to be targeted for harassment or discrimination.