Over the last few months, God has been turning my theology upside down. He has transformed my world view more in this short period of time than at any other time in my life. The way that I view God, the world, and especially the way that I view myself in the world, has completely changed. Like many changes, it took a crisis to bring this about. God had to take me to some places that I had never been before to show me some things that I had never seen before. Perhaps I will be able to share more about that adventure someday, but it’s not truly my story to tell, so it will have to wait…
The scripture that has been my undoing is very familiar if you have been in church for any time at all. It is Matthew 25, beginning at verse 31, where Jesus describes the judgement day. He begins by separating all people into 2 groups, which he compares to sheep and goats. He then welcomes the sheep into his kingdom, and bases his decision on this: that they had fed him when he was hungry, gave him drink when he was thirsty, gave him a place to stay when he was a stranger, clothed him when he was naked, and visited him when he was sick or in prison.
Puzzled by this, the sheep ask when they did these things. He replies that anytime that you did it to the least of these, you did it to me (Jesus).
Jesus then turns to the goats and sends them away to destruction. As his reasoning he states that it is because they didn’t feed him when he was hungry, or give him drink when he was thirsty, or give him a place to stay when he was a stranger, or clothe him when he was naked, or visit him when he was sick or in prison.
As they were also puzzled by this, they asked when did they ever not do these things to Jesus? He responds that anytime you didn’t do it to one of these, you didn’t do it to me.
Jesus very plainly makes the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger (that’s immigrants to you & me), the naked (or poor), the sick, and the prisoner a priority, and our treatment of them is at least a sign of how we are serving the one whose name we bear. He does not mention how they came to be hungry, or immigrants, or sick, or prisoners…he simply tells us what he expects our actions to be towards them. We must offer aid.
They must be a priority to us because they are a priority to God.
Which brings me to my point.
For 47 years, the reality of my American Christian life has been that I have allowed my political views to inform my religion. In other words, my identity as a conservative Republican dictated my views towards poverty, immigration, crime, and other social issues. I was perfectly content quoting scripture such as “the poor you will always have with you”, or “if you don’t work, you don’t eat”, and going about my life. It seemed ‘right’ to somewhat blindly follow those who were talking about ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘the rule of law’.
Over the past few months, God has been showing me that my blind allegiance was not only wrong. It was sinful. My toleration of actions which conflicted the truth of my faith was sinful. My faith must be greater than my political party ideology. My faith must inform my political views. I am a Christian, and everything in life must be filtered through that identity.
I think that it is profound that Jesus specifically says ONE when talking to the goats. He doesn’t require us to solve all of the world’s problems, because there will always be poor among us. But he does expect us to be the solution for one.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe that there is a political party in America that Jesus would embrace. They are both flawed, and they both carry water for lobbyists whose interests are anything but biblical. I hope that over the course of time, the true Church will work to change this. I intend to use the power of the pen, and the ballot, to hold leaders accountable for their actions that reveal a compromise of their stated faith.
It’s easy to fall into the game of pointing fingers at the Democrats or the Republicans, but Jesus doesn’t divide the sheep and goats based on how they hold their leaders accountable. He says that he will hold us accountable, as individuals. I want for my life to be about responding to the call to bring eternal faith, hope, and love, and necessities of life, to the least of these. Even when the cost of bringing it is mine to bear.
When I was in school, I loved it when the teacher would give us the actual test to study and review before we took the test. We knew exactly what we would be asked and could be ready on test day. It seems that Jesus has done that for us in Matthew 25.
I have a note on my desk to remind me to be preparing for the final exam every day. It simply says…
What are you doing for…