“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.”
Luke 19: 5-7
Jesus invited himself to Zack’s house for a dinner party. He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. He borrowed Peter’s boat as a platform for teaching. The women, who followed Jesus, invested financially in his mission and an unnamed person lent Jesus his colt for the Palm Sunday parade. Jesus believes in us and invites us to share our gifts and talents to help him express the kingdom of heaven on earth. Asking people to share their gifts and their resources acknowledges they have something of worth to bring to the party of life. Simply asking will affirm their dignity; if they share their gifts it will make for a better party!
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus invites people to share their stories—as well as their deepest aspirations and wildest dreams—by asking questions. He asks the paralytic, “Do you want to get well?” He asks a blind man named Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks the men on the road to Emmaus, “What are you talking about as you travel along?” He asks the woman at the well, “Where is your husband?” And the woman caught in adultery, he asks, “Where are your accusers?” The right question, asked in the right way, will create a protected space for people to explore their hopes and dreams.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
In this familiar Red Letter story, Jesus takes children who are being shunned by his disciples and places them on his lap; instantly he moves them from the margin to center stage. Jesus blesses the children and lifts them up as an example of kingdom values, saying for all to hear, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Jesus always has his eye focused on people who are invisible. He sees those who live in the shadows of injustice and shines his light of compassion and grace on them. He uses his hands to lift them out of obscurity and he uses his voice to acknowledge their dignity.
“Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Jesus never said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, affirm the dignity of others,” but I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant when he said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” The parable of the good shepherd is a Red Letter story that magnifies the value of every individual. The hero in the story leaves the ninety-nine and seeks the one who has wandered away. In God’s family of compassion, no one is to be left out! No one is to be left behind! Everyone has equal and inherent value... including you!
Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.