I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I stood with some of the other men having a drink. He was trying very hard to involve himself in the conversation that was going on around him but he was being pointedly ignored. He was trying to say something when there was a sudden laugh from the whole group. They acted as if they had not seen him. I watched him slink away on his stubby legs, hands behind his back, looking defeated.
I excused myself and went to look for him. Their treatment of him was unfair. This was supposed to be a Christian businessmen gathering but there was nothing Christ-like about their attitude. True, he had been involved in a public scandal because he had embezzled some money but then he had come clean and repented. He didn’t deserve to be ignored. I saw him standing on the verandah, nursing his drink.
“Good evening,” I said to him with my most pleasant manner. He nodded curtly.
“Feels good to get away from the wife and kids for a little while, doesn’t it?” I said looking for an opener.
His face became contorted with an odd mixture of what looked like rage and grief. “Didn’t you hear? My wife left me. She couldn’t stand the scandal. Just another reason for you guys to make fun of me.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry about your wife. But, I want to say I admire you. Coming forward like you did; it couldn’t have been easy.”
“Well, if I hadn’t done it in the first place, I wouldn’t have needed to come forward,” he said angrily. It was like he was refusing to be consoled.
I smiled at him and said: “Philip, do you know who you remind me of?”
He looked up at me questioningly and I continued: “You remind me of someone in the Bible called Zacchaeus.”
“Zacchaeus?” he asked me with a puzzled look on his face. “Never heard of him.”
“In fact, you and him were a lot alike. People around him didn’t like him very much and avoided him because of some of the things he did. But Jesus wasn’t one of those people. In fact, he set out to look for him and talk with him personally.”
Philip’s brows furrowed. “Why?” he asked.
I grinned. “Why don’t we discuss it tomorrow? Over some lunch if you don’t mind.”
Philip nodded slowly as I reeled off possible venues and time.
Baby steps, I thought to myself.
P.S: Do you know any Zacchaeuses around you? Those who are treated like outcasts even by other Christians because of what they’ve done in the past? It’s time to start doing what Jesus would do.