Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sheep or Goat

There are plenty of Jesus' words in the gospels that should rather quickly bring a little reflection to everyone who claims to be a Christ follower. One of Jesus' stories that hit me lately is the story of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 (don't keep reading this until you go read that – I don't talk about the text too much in here, but you need to know the whole story for this to make ANY sense). There are really two points in this text that stand out for me. First is the obvious one that if we are disciples of Christ, we WILL serve other's needs simply because it is God's will that we do it and because the love of Christ is in us we can't help but. The second point is a little hidden within the context of the first. Let me look at an example or two of "whatever you did for the least" to set the stage a bit. Then the second point can be uncovered.

Driving around just about anywhere in Atlanta (or any other major city) it doesn't take too long to find someone standing on a corner holding a sign asking for help. They may be asking for money, work, food, something. What are my thoughts when I see that person? Is it, "Hmm, that is Jesus standing there in need of something – let me help him now," or is it more like, "I don't have any cash anyway, so no reason to even role down the window – just don't look at him and I will forget he is there in about half a mile"? Maybe those thoughts are too extreme to be the real thoughts, but what about this? That needy person, a "least of these brothers" is an immediate opportunity right in front of me. God has provided me with an immediate opportunity to serve HIM by serving this needy person. What action do I take? I take the "practical" action. I excuse myself from serving him because my kids are in the car. After all, I can't put my kids in danger if this is some diseased or crazed person, right?

Or take this example. It's a cold night and I am actually DOING something to help the needy. I am taking coats to the homeless. I give out my last coat and start back toward my car to head to my nice warm home for the night. Then, I run across another homeless guy off by himself, shivering. What are my choices here? Ignore him, go buy a coat and bring it back, tell him where a shelter is, or (the unthinkable in today's world) ask him in my car to come home to my family. Of course, I am going to go with one of the first three options in that list. In truth, I probably will take the "go buy him a coat" option. I mean, really, I gave him a coat. That is DOING something, right? That is the practical response.

Those practical thoughts, the "can't put my kids in danger" and "I gave them coats" lead to the deeper/hidden second point in this story. And, I think it reveals more about us and our real beliefs than the simple "are we serving the needy". That second point is this: when we take practical actions/responses, what does that say about our trust/faith/belief in the almighty God we claim to serve? It seems to me if I choose the practical response I am saying I don't trust God to have my best interest in play at that time. Maybe there is some truth in that, since God's view of "my interests" is far different than my view. But seriously, if I am unwilling to immediately ask a stranger (read the Matthew 25 text) into my car or home out of honest concern for my or my family's safety, then isn't that a lack of trust in God to do His work? Yes, this is one of those places where MANY people will call me crazy or say I am WAY overreaching on this point. Well, maybe, but as I have said in earlier posts, Paul and Jesus himself point out the world will think His followers crazy. So, maybe before you say that too loudly, you might want to REALLY check yourself.

Let me get back to the example of buying the coat for the homeless guy. That really is a great thing to do. By no means do I mean to say we should/can't do that. But, what if that person has disappeared by the time you return? What if the cops made him move on, or worse yet something bad happened to him while you were gone? Did you not just walk away from an immediate and clear opportunity to serve a "least of these?" Is that person's wellbeing not at least in some way your responsibility as a Christian? Did you not choose practicality or safety over God's will? Ouch.

Are those "practical" and "safe" responses what we see when we look through the gospels and Acts? No, we see in those stories of reckless abandon of earthly life to simply help those in need. We don't see the disciples or Jesus saying "go write a check" or "go buy them a coat." We see Jesus and the disciples act immediately when God presents opportunities to serve. We should as well. When we truly, fully trust God and have HIS will as our purpose, our fear dissipates, love consumes us, and we serve others whenever, wherever and however the opportunity arises.


Ministerio Cosas Nuevas Cosas Viejas said...

Hello Mark, Lee Williams here.

Give me a call when you get a chance. Let's talk! Sounds like the Lord is stirring some things up!