Zacchaeus Knew What to do – And so Will a Truly Repentant Person
Jeff Crippen ♦ 14th September 2014 ♦ 46 Comments
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[July 25, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
This post is credited to one of our readers who brought Zacchaeus to my attention recently. Many thanks to her!
(Luke 19:1-10 ESV) He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And 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 and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus is one of my favorite Bible characters, in spite of the fact that his name is notoriously hard to spell. Let’s call him Zack in this post and take that pressure off.
The account of Zack’s salvation is glorious because it is real. His faith was real. And his repentance was real. That moment on that day he met Jesus was foreordained. Jesus came to “the place.” That exact piece of geography where the Lamb of God would intersect with this, well, wicked man. Zack was short. Remember the Sunday School song from the old days? “Zacchaeus was a little old man, a little old man was he….” I don’t know why the “old” adjective. Maybe just to match the tune. The Bible doesn’t say that he was old. He could still run and he could still climb a tree!
Jesus came to “the place,” paused, and “looked up.” Then he calls Zack by name and says “I’m coming to your place.” Jesus uses the word “must.” God had set His redeeming love on Zack in eternity past. The thing must happen.
Now, as our reader kindly observed to me, Zack knew just what to do. As a sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd’s flock, Zack knows the Shepherd’s voice when he hears it. He comes down hurriedly. No hesitation. And then really I think the most remarkable part of the account happens:
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it four-fold.”
Jesus pronounced salvation upon that house.
And here is our point. This and nothing short of this is true repentance. Rarer than a precious gem and far more wonderful, genuine repentance is a really remarkable thing. Remarkable because no one told Zack what to do! The thing sprang from his heart. Real conviction of his many sins, and a real turning from those sins accompanied by a resolve to set them all right to whatever degree he could. And not to just right his past wrongs, but to start actively practicing righteousness as a way of life — “the half of my goods I give to the poor.” It wasn’t just empty talk spouted off in the moment either. He did it.
And no one told him what to do.
Every Christian has been and is being taught by the Spirit of Jesus. They have been granted true repentance and faith as gifts from the Lord. They understand and talk the language of repentance. And they do it.
Abusers take note. Zack’s example exposes your fake repentance. You are exposed when you insist that you don’t know what to do and if “only” your victim would tell you again (“make you a list”, you know). Do you see anyone making Zack a list? But he knew. He knew how to love others. He knew how to see sin as sin and right as right. And he delighted in it.
Want to see real repentance? Find a story of an abuser who, coming to faith and repentance, marches into court, grants his victim a totally uncontested divorce, gives her a check for at least half of the assets, and resolves to pay her support four times over the amount the court requires.
If you ever do see such a man, ask him if his name is Zack. Tell him I would like to meet him.
[July 25, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 25, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 25, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 25, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 25, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
- Posted in: Abusers
- Tagged: false Christians, identifying abusers, Jeff Crippen, Luke, repentance
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I burst out laughing at this! Then almost cried.
If only is right, StrongerNow.
Only a repentant heart will make such provisions. The courts won’t ask how much you gave in life and money to facilitate their education. Nor will they ask how much your income facilitated the family. Nor will they ever ask how much you will lose in income because through their abuse you went on disability in your prime, never able to make those wages again after you finally get away to save the rest of your life, through divorce.
Go ahead and cry, StrongerNow.
Amen. I might end up like so many, health ruined by stress on disability.
I was just pondering this story the other day while trying to sort through my “repentant” h’s increased covert aggression now that I am moving forward with the divorce. I wondered to myself “what would Zach 🙂 do if he went to the home of someone he wronged and they remained un-trusting of him, not wanting to enter into relationship with him?” How would a truly repentant man filled with Godly sorrow and conviction respond to that?
I would think that a repentant man stays a repentant man even if they are not getting from other people what they had hoped their repentance would bring them. Of course true repentance is not about what the repentant person will gain from others due to their repentance but someone forgot to tell my h that.
Remember, high on the list of the life rules of an abuser: “No one tells me ‘No’ and gets away with it.”
I could have written this comment myself, BH. My church was almost taken in by my “repentant” husband and his crocodile tears on Friday. Thankfully, the pastor he met with was able to step back and reevaluate, and realize the conversation was actually very weird and my husband playing the victim with great skill, but only after asking me to sit down with them and my husband to explain why I was divorcing. Ugh.
When you only see them acting “nice” to get what they want instead of BEING nice even to those that can do nothing for them or disagree with them.
I am listening to Cloud / Townsend’s “Safe People” series and they talk about how unsafe people will not pass the test of time. They can only keep up the act so long then their character reveals itself.
It’s all about being willing to be accountable for what you have done….
Why not give the victim wife an amazing divorce, and uncontested custody to boot, and child support along the way? Wouldn’t a truly repentant man would own up to everything and be willing to right himself in “God’s eyes” and do the works that show he wants to right the wrong? He needs to get out of the picture and allow her uncontested healing, and restoration.
Yes, and he also needs to tell all the people in the church and his and her families “Hey, I told lies about her. I badmouthed her. I made it sound like she was crazy and she was to blame. I told lies to the kids too. I lied to the pastor, I lied to the courts, I lied to….well, just about everyone. Here are the lies I told ________; and here are the truths I should have told __________. Now, charge me and let me face whatever punishment the authorities hand down. That will help me walk in the forgiveness that Christ has granted me.”
Wouldn’t that go a long way to repairing the damaged reputation of the victim and removing her stigma? And wouldn’t every survivor of abuse rejoice to know that this abuser had truly reformed? Wouldn’t we look forward to meeting that man in heaven? I know I would, because he would have a good testimony.
We wish it was that easy to convince church and family that the lies I told were lies. They still believe what they want.
Generally speaking, people think, say, and hear what they want. Once those grooves are written in ones brain it is not easy to re-write them.
I have suicidal thoughts daily. I was in an extremely abusive marriage for 21 years. It was mostly verbal and emotional abuse, but at the end, became physical. He was an Elder at our church. Successful business man. Highly narcissistic. The cycle of abuse was textbook — abuse, cooling down, extravagant presents and / or demonstrations of love and affection, then the building up of anger, more abuse, and so on. I also grew up in a physically and verbally abusing family.
I have been totally shunned by the church (except for one godly lady who does not attend that church anymore), by my entire family, except for three aunts (which is a huge, clannish family, and we were all very close). The ultimate despicable and most wounding act that is beyond words is that I am a victim of parental alienation. He has totally brainwashed my children. He will not allow them to call me Mom. They have to call me by my first name. He has told them so many lies. I have never once reciprocated. I always taught them to respect their dad. I never bad-mouthed him. They do not want to see me. We have shared custody, but they are all at the age where they get to decide. I will be sending them letters tomorrow. Please pray for my precious children.
There is one thing I did wrong with respect to our marriage / divorce. Right before the divorce was final, I had a weekend “fling” with a man I had known since high school. Soon after I asked for forgiveness and repented. That was 10 months ago. I am very blessed that nobody knows about it. But God sees all. The man lives out of state now. I have had no further contact with him. I know by sound Biblical doctrine that I am redeemed and enjoy the acceptance of a Righteous Savior, but I still have regret and shame that I did that. I was starving for love and affection, but that is not a valid excuse. Please pray for me. Thank you.
[Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]
Esther – thank you for your story. And your repentance. I know several abuse victims who made the same error you did and yes, it was sin BUT the abuser is also guilty of causing a little one to stumble. As to your sin it is washed away by Christ and here is what you can expect from Him on that Day –
No word of condemnation for the sheep. None. Nada. Clean slate because of Jesus.
I will pray for you, Esther. Please allow God to re-write the script in your mind that tells you that ending your life is the way to go. For several years before I was divorced I asked God to take me home, but He had other plans for me. I believe He has plans for you as well. We go through so many changes when “marriage” ends. We have already been through the wringer while “married” and then are blasted by the loss of people who we thought we could depend on. New people that you can depend on will surface. Some that believed your husband’s lies may eventually see through them. Find a new church where you feel comfortable. Make new friends. Go to a support group. God will bring you back from the pit of despair. He is good in all things. He will make good from this too. You are an honest woman, Esther. I will be praying for you.
No, No, No….”Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he….” That is the way I learned it and taught it my whole life.
I would like to meet this man too. I am going to be a “Doubting Thomas” here and say we are not likely to ever see one such as Zack.
Oh, you’re right, Brenda! Now I remember it too.
I was just about to make the same comment re: “wee little man.” Either way, wee or old, I would like to meet Zack — and one day I look forward to meeting the real Zack in the real Glory — and maybe we all can sing the song to him and ask if he ever heard it before. Perhaps those who are in Glory before us have already sung it to him. Either way, I’m sure he’s glad to be where he is right now, being with the truly repentant. Thank God we are among his brethren and sisters.
Still Reforming, I have thought many times of those I’d like to meet in Heaven and the conversations that I would want to have with them, until today he was only a passing tho9ught for me. Ps Crippen’s writing puts him in a whole new light.
Should that ever happen and I know it never would….my ability to trust is so damaged my only thought would be “What has he and his attorney cooked up now?”
G’day, Abidenhim, welcome to the blog! 🙂
Thank you, Barbara….this feels like a safe place, a refuge for my soul.
Abidenhim, I would think the same thing, what type of twisted trap has he come up with now.
Seeing Clearly, I can relate to you and your situation. I, too, am on disability now after my husband’s gaslighting caused me to have a breakdown and then subsequently, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I just moved out (secretly escaped his clutches) two days ago and the cloud of oppression has lifted. Of course, he and everyone else is pointing at me and playing the bipolar card. Seeing Clearly, God will continue to provide for us, in spite, of what has been done to us. Blessings to you, my dear sister.
My dear A Bruised Reed,
You are an extremely courageous woman to have stepped past fear and escaped. Please don’t let anyone or anything convince you that you must return. I will talk to you every day or night and stand beside you if that would be appropriate. Maybe ACFJ could advise about that. I started unraveling in [the early 90s] with a breakdown and heavy meds in [the early 90s]. Somehow I returned again to work until [the early 2000s]. I couldn’t handle one more cycle of feeling like my head was separated from my body. I was done. [One child] was in college and [another child] was a senior in a private high school. I was the financial resource for both. In [the 2000s], I started the divorce process that took [number redacted], not because there was a lot to settle, but because my ex would not cooperate. After spousal support was finally set, he repetitioned the court to lower the support. His attorney was underhanded in the process and the judge agreed to lower it.
But this is what is important for you, today, A Bruised Reed. As I continued in therapy, moved to an accepting and productive environment, cared for family members as needed, I healed slowly. With guidance, I stopped the heavy meds, then lowered the antidepressant. I never gave up the anti-anxiety med, still need it, at least at night. Now I have been off the anti-depressant for [number redacted], I have fresh energy every day. My psychologist is now a life coach, helping me to re-pattern ways of survival into free living. I am like a new person and people notice the big difference. I still continue to heal.
I tell very few people the real reason for my divorce, many just think he was just very strong, domineering and I was the one with the problems. I will tell you the real reason. I could take the emotional, mental, and verbal abuse. (I shouldn’t have.) I could take the mind games. (I shouldn’t have). But the brainwashing had to stop and it would not and that was when I filed. We women are very strong. We are also resilient. You are resilient though you probably are not sure of that right now. Speak truth to yourself every day. When you recognize a lie, state the lie in a few words to yourself and then state the truth. Most of all, be gentle with yourself. I will pray, specifically, for you as well.
HA!!! Three cheers for “Zach”!!! How timely is this post! I am going to court tomorrow to increase my child support order. For 7 years, the ex / deacon in his church / narcissist, has gotten away with paying $28.38 / week! Add to that him taking 1 / 2 of my retirement, 1 / 2 the proceeds of the house sale, to which I solely paid the mortgage for 18 months to a tune of $19,800….false charges of my other son abusing his son, and turning my family against me because I no longer go to “their church” (they refuse to see the truth….same old story)….I could go on and on and on!! However, my attorney, based on some figures, to which he underestimated his earnings….(of course)…is fairly sure the increase could go up to $150 – $177 / week!! Thanks ya’ll….just had to vent. 🙂 Prayers appreciated for tomorrow!!! Thanks Again!! Zachs are few and far between….
Soldiergirl, yes, I totally agree!!
Yes, yes a thousand times YES!! What an insightful post! It’s always struck me that indeed no one told [that] Zacchaeus offered to restore this money when Jesus hadn’t asked him to. When we are truly repentant and the love of Christ fills us our response is gratitude and humility.
I heard ad nauseum my husband tell me that he didn’t know what to do. The funny thing is he never asked what he could do to make it better. He just told me my expectations were too high. When I would tell him what hurt he kept doing it. I told him that when you love someone you naturally SEEK out what they want and need. You don’t wait to be told.
In John 16:13 we are told the Spirit will guide us into all truth. When we align ourselves with God He directs our steps. Thank you, God, for giving us this treasure within your Word to learn from and thank you, Jeff, for comforting us with it!
Thank you for this. I am legally separated and lived apart for two years. Recently I let my h move back in. It was such a bad idea; I feel so foolish. But he had to move and our legal separation had just been finalized and he insisted we sell our house and I didn’t have the energy to move. I was so exhausted from starting a new full time job and just thought it would be easier to let him move in and we could try one more time to see if it could work. He claims to be a changed man and I do see much changed in him but it is so hard for me to trust him. We have been married for 19 years and together for 24 (since I was 18). I am feeling so much anger towards him and even though he now goes to church with me and does all the ‘right’ things and is no longer abusive, I cannot seem to enjoy his company at all. I’m only trying again for the sake of our kids. He was terribly emotionally and verbally abusive, abused alcohol and did threatening things like breaking my things to punish me and manipulative things like telling me I was a lesbian when I wanted to hang out with girlfriends. He yelled at me while I was in labor because I became sick and more. But now he has ‘found God’, goes to church and because of all this, I feel obligated to try again.
The last few days he has been on edge though because he decided to ask court to eliminate my maintenance since I now have a job to which I agreed but asked that we please then follow through on the rest of our separation – for him to give me share of our assets and refinance the house in his name. He says this is ‘moving backwards’.
It is so confusing. But could he really be a Zacchaeus and I am just being unforgiving?
KitaBunch, you are as sincere and diligent as the day is long. I have no words for you, but I do look forward to the comments to follow from those who discern red flags and can explain them to us. I am still learning just as you are. Thanks for putting this before us.
If you are legally separated, why is the house not already settled? Maybe different states are different, but all assets were divided and set in stone in my “Separation” documentation. As far as maintenance, I would not allow him to change it, that is already set in stone. What would happen if you said “ok, I don’t need it” and you loose your job? Once he gets out from paying that, he’s in the house and now he’s living off your income.
I can’t tell you whether or not you could get beyond the things he has said and done in the past, but I know I would not. If X contacts me, which I avoid like the plague, having him speak or talk to me brings back negative memories. I was first legally separated and 2 months later divorced. For me that was a fresh start. I went out with a friend yesterday. No one was there yelling at me that I wasn’t paying enough attention to him, his dinner wasn’t ready when he is perfectly capable of cooking for himself. Demanding since I got to go away he was now going to need to spend hundreds of dollars at the casino, I owe him sex. The list goes on and on. That would have been because I spent a few hours with a friend, so ended up for a very long time I didn’t have any.
What are circumstances for you? Can you trust him again with or without the children. Remember this is a man who yelled at you while you were in labor. It should have been about you and his child, instead it was about him. It is moving backwards to him to divide your assets, but it is not moving backwards for him to ask the court to stop paying maintenance to you. He has a double-standard. He wants what he wants. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have bothered to go for Legal separation and go straight for the divorce, however you have to do what is right for you.
Hi, KitaBunch, this question you’ve asked — if you read Jeff’s post again, and also read the Checklist for Repentance, I think you will find that the answer to your question is “No, he is not showing any of the signs of a real Zacchaeus.” And even if he were showing many many signs of true repentance, that would not oblige you to reconcile with him or to let him live with you again, even on the terms you have allowed him to come back. You are not obliged to let him back at all, especially if you don’t want to or your don’t feel sure of yourself.
From what you said, it sounds like he is clearly putting pressure on you. Lots of pressure. And I imagine the church (or at least some of the folk in the church) are pressuring you too, and we can bet that your husband is playing these allies of his in the church to the hilt, so that pressure is increased.
Pressure does not have to be him using loud angry words or getting drunk or doing verbal abuse that you could pin point (like name calling). Pressure can be manipulation and subtle guilt tripping, and defining your reality for you. For example, when he talks about your request that you follow through with the rest of the separation, he defines that as ‘moving backwards’. That means he is ignoring your request and defining your preference as ‘negative’ — and therefore defining your preference as something stupid that should be put aside, negated and ignored.
Look at the reality: he has a long history of abusing you and he has only cut back on the most obvious forms of that abuse (like the yelling and calling you a lesbian); but he has actually kept right on with (or even escalated?) other types of more subtle abuse:
—pressuring you to give up the maintenance money you have been receiving,
—pressuring you to let him back into the home,
—pressuring you to see him as your rescuer from exhaustion,
—pressuring you to give up your desire to follow through with the legal separation,
—and pressuring you to doubt your feelings and your concerns with the result that you feel confused, guilty, and obliged to forgive him — with ‘forgive’ being his definition of forgiveness meaning you let him back fully in relationship with you, as your husband.
This is a fair bit of pressure! No wonder you feel confused!
You might like to consider this: You are free to change your mind and tell him you don’t want him living under your roof. You can say you have decided you want him to leave. This is your liberty, and you are free to do it whenever you want. To my way of thinking, there is no shame in changing your mind under these circumstances. When you let him back you were already feeling exhausted. Being exhausted is not a place from which we can usually make good decisions for the long term. So if you think you made a mistake to let him back, try not to beat up on yourself, and allow yourself the liberty to do whatever you see fit to re-set your course after that mistake.
We each are capable of making mistakes. And we can each learn from our mistakes and try to make wiser choices in the future.
Also, it sounds to me like you have not had time to make a full emotional recovery from the trauma of that 19 year marriage. So even if your husband were to fully repent, it does not mean that you have to have him back in close relationship with you. You are free to take whatever time you need to recover from the trauma. And you are free to never have a close relationship with him again, even if he did fully repent. But from what you’ve described he has not repented at all. He’s just switched to different abusive tactics, to make you think / hope that he has repented.
If an abuser has not repented but is just making a show of repentance, and we live with that abuser, we are not able to properly recover from the trauma of his abuse because he basically does not let us: rather, he just puts on new disguises to his abuse which confuse and bamboozle us so we meander in the doldrums making barely any recovery because we are always second-guessing ourselves and doubting ourselves.
Blessings to you. I’m glad you’ve shared on the blog.
BTW, you can find the Checklist for Repentance and other pertinent resources at our page Deciding to Stay or Leave.
His past behavior was very destructive so I would not be quick to get rid of the separation agreement. He owes it to you to prove he is trustworthy not the other way around. Scrap his “backwards” comment, stay cautious. If he is genuine with changing, the separation agreement should not be removed until your heart is at peace. He sounds like wants to rush things. You are not obligated to trust him, he must earn it.
People that work against the Spirit of God are following a self-serving agenda. But if they truly followed repentance in the biblical sense, they would be willing to pay back as much restitution “as they possibly could” to replace what was lost — with no strings attached….(to some of us this is immeasurable — due to the extent of damage or loss) and that’s how you could tell if you have a truly repentant person or not. One that admits the full damage that his self-serving sinful life has caused to the innocent family members. No minimizing, no trivializing, no justifying, no excusing. Just plain restitution, and full exoneration granted to the victim spouse from blame or for the failure of the marriage.
This indeed would be a man that has proven that he wanted to right himself in God’s eyes….
Amen! And then continues his repentance humbly and at a distance!
And Zacchaeus said:
[Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]
StandsWithAFist, I believe you have described fully what our government thinks of its people and how highly an abuser thinks of himself.
Oh wow, StandsWithAFist….that’s it….that’s exactly how my ex rationalizes what he does! And it ends up in his head that all of his abuse is really for my good….and then he thinks….why isn’t she “grateful”?
—great posting and the title states it very well!
My ex always knew what to do, as seen when I was ready to give up on us. And then somehow always didn’t do it. When you see this type of pattern, you know there is no hope. Still to this day will not repent and pay me back for all he has taken, admit he did anything wrong during the divorce, etc.. And still thinks I am clueless about him. It justifies my divorce to him over and over.
Esther – 2:52 p.m. today, thank you for sharing with us. It was a courageous choice you made to do so. Jeff put it very well — slate clean. If you can, lift your chin a little higher and accept his words, which are really Jesus personal words to you.
May you find hope in the verses Jeff shared with you. I am thankful to know that you have a godly lady and 3 aunts who continue to stand by you. I stand by you, too.
God bless you all for posts like these! It is a relief to see people with compassion for those who are hurting, understanding of the dynamics of abuse, and faith solidly grounded in the Word of God. I wish more people were able to recognize the difference between repentance and saying you’re sorry. Abusers would find it much harder to use churches and pastors against their victims!
G’day Sarah, welcome to the blog. 🙂
We do have another Sarah here so maybe you might like to modify your screen name a bit. If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will change the name you used in this comment. 🙂
My H’s actions were so very abusive to me and my kids. Verbal and physical and financial…. So much controlling! My pastor thinks he can change with rehab for the recent alcohol use, but H abused cold sober for years, too.
I’ve decided the only way to know he’s truly repentant is for him to willingly go to a judge and district prosecutor, reveal ALL he has done, ask myself and the kids what he’s forgotten, then take the consequences without complaint (other than, “it was so hot today during community service! It will be nice when fall is here.”). If he whines or downplays his culpability, he cannot be honestly repentant.
I’m starting a divorce. It can be stopped if he changes. We can remarry if he changes and the divorce final. But unless I see him trying to change around the time the divorce is final, I’m moving on with the path I feel God has for me.
Thank you for your comment, Survivor Of Heartbreak, and welcome to the blog! 🙂 You sound strong and clear. I hope many people read your comment and gain mental clarity and courage from it. You seem like a really good role model.
Good for you for assessing the situation for yourself and making your own decision, rather than been swayed / cowed by your pastor. I take my hat off to you. Your pastor does not understand abuse if he thinks that your husband’s abusiveness will stop if he undergoes rehab for alcohol misuse. You know much more than your pastor does. Many abusers perpetrate abuse stone-cold sober (I have personal experience of that from my second husband).
I hope you keep commenting on the blog. Your voice is important….just as all victims / survivors’ voices are important.
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