Monday May 4, 2020
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’Matthew 25:31-40 (NRSV)
The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four separate accounts of the life, teachings, ministry , and truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. Different Christian traditions tend to emphasize different parts of these Gospel writings as more informative of their own faith as far as how they are to live in the present moment.
For some, the dramatic calling of Christ to live a life of peace, forgiveness, and understanding that they see in the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 is how they believe they ought to live.
For others, the calling of Christ on the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them from Matthew 28 informs their mission of evangelism.
And for others, the calling of Christ to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the foreigner, and the outcasts from this passage from Matthew 25 informs their mission of working towards social justice, as well as their mission to directly help others in the form of soup kitchens.
These three examples of emphasis are all good ways in which Christians are called to live, but if we only emphasize one part of the Gospel’s calling on our lives, at the exclusion of the others, we miss the full picture.
Every person in our churches and in our Christian communities is unique. Some will be those who will remind us to live lives that strive for holiness, some will be those who remind us of the call to share our faith with others verbally and through intentional relationships, and some will be those who remind us of the need to care for those in need. A healthy church has people within it that see the value of all three of these callings and other callings from the Gospels, and it has those in leadership who support those in their church who are passionate about each of these callings, while reminding the congregation that Christians are called to believe in and see the value in all of the callings on the Christian life.
If we live lives that seek right living, but we don’t leave our own circles, we miss out on the mission to evangelize, baptize, and care for the sick, hungry, and oppressed.
If we live lives that are dedicated to evangelism, but we don’t strive for right living, and we ignore the needs of others, we miss out on those missions.
If we live lives that are dedicated to the care of others in need, but don’t strive for right living, or sharing out faith with others, we miss out on those missions.
Today’s scripture reading reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from a pastor I used to know about the importance of caring for and loving others:
“Nothing in the Bible permits me to be a jerk.”– Pastor Gary
Jesus’ ministry, message, and the Gospel message of the cross and resurrection itself, all display that the goodness of God should be available to all people, and that all people should live according to the will of God, should share the goodness of God with others through evangelism and through caring for others. Jesus, in Matthew 25, is speaking of addressing religious people in the day of judgement who intentionally ignored the needs of those around them, likely because they saw the people in need as less of a human being. To me, this kind of behavior doesn’t seem to be permitted by Jesus.
Pastor Gary, his wife, and the elders and deacons of his church met with college students weekly to give them a meal, and to talk about our lives, our shared faith, and to encourage us to share our faith with others through the ministry of conversing with and praying for the homeless of Bristol, PA, and through opening their church services to anyone and everyone.
Through challenging times, through hurtful words said, and when ministry got tough, I was reminded of Pastor Gary’s words, that NOTHING permitted him to be unkind to anyone he was speaking with.
In this time as we are spending more time in our homes than we had before, it is a good time for some self-reflection.
We should ask ourselves what we are doing right now to seek out right living in our personal lives, to ask ourselves what we are doing to share our faith, and what we are doing to help those around us.
Then, we should ask ourselves what we CAN do to improve our Christian living in these and other areas, while committing to being kind and loving to all people that we come across.
Lastly, we should examine ourselves to discover where our natural passions are, and how they could align with the missions of our Church and Christian community, both now, and when we are able to reconvene.