Saturday, July 27, 2013

 

"The Least of These . . . "

This past week I've been pondering the story of "the Sheep and the Goats" as presented in Matthew 25:31-46.  These verses have been highlighted in a post making its rounds on the internet in which a new pastor dresses up as a homeless man and visits his church just before he is introduced as the pastor.  The post makes a powerful message, but I think it overlooks some things.  As I have thought about the "least of these" (Matt. 25:45) in my own life, I realized that these individuals often aren't as obvious as this pastor's disguise.  With that in mind, I offer the following note from "the least of these" as I imagine they would write to me.

Hello:

I saw you today. You were talking to your usual group of friends, and I came over to see if I could join the conversation.  Someone finally acknowledged me and asked how I was doing.  After an attempt to be transparent and honest, I received a series of responses that essentially told me how the situation was really my problem and of no real concern to those involved in the conversation.  I got it. You speak of honesty and transparency, but you don't really want it.  You want to continue your discussions with no real light on what is going on in your life.  Fine, I got the message.  I'll fade back into the crowd.

I was in church today too.  You probably didn't notice me because I look like I fit in, but usually I don't.  I sometimes sit alone, but I can be surrounded by people and still be alone.  I've come to your church several times, but I haven't really met anyone here yet.  I am a bit introverted, and I have a hard time coming out of my shell to meet folks.  During the "meet and greet" time, I tend to be a bit invisible.  I want to be a part, but the pain of my life and my mistakes keeps me at arm's length, afraid to introduce myself for fear of being rejected.  I know, it is probably my fault.  Sorry to bother you, I'll fade back into the crowd. 

I was there too.  I hung out with my normal crowd, I sang enthusiastically, and I even tried to greet folks around me.  I have a secret though, and I'm sure if you knew it you wouldn't accept me either.  It isn't anything illegal, but it is a bit embarrassing. So, I'll put on my mask and pretend things are great.  Some folks will probe a bit, and I'll start to share my story.  They usually refer me to a counselor, and then they will avoid me for awhile.  I guess they don't want my problem to infect them.  I'll just fade back into the crowd.

I came to church today.  My kids acted up a bit.  I could feel the stares and disapproval of folks around me.  I tried to get my baby to be quiet, and I know it was a disruption.  I simply need to be surrounded with adults (preferably Christian ones), and I thought that church would be the place.  Maybe when my kids are older and won't disrupt the service, then I'll come back.  I'm sorry to interrupt, I'll just fade back into the crowd.

I was there.  I'm the guy who sometimes says the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I can be a bit of a bother too.  I know it, but I'm not proud of it.  I try so hard to fit in that I often run my mouth and say inappropriate things.  I know it bothers you, I can see it in your eyes.  You think I'm arrogant, or you think I'm clueless.  I'm not, but I am wounded.  I respond by being boisterous, but I see now that my actions will lead to rejection.  I'll fade back into the crowd. 

I think you get my point.  The "least of these" is not always the most obvious person in the crowd.  Sometimes the "least of these" is simply the person who rubs us the wrong way or the one who reminds us too much of ourselves.  We avoid them in hopes of avoiding the mess we perceive them to be (and perhaps to avoid the mess of who we really are--if we are honest).  I am guilty myself.  I can't deny it.  I have not treated people as Jesus would desire.  I confess, and, with God's help, I repent.

May we all take the words of Christ more seriously.  Inasmuch as we do it to the "least of these," we have done it to Jesus himself.  How would we treat Jesus?

Thanks for reading!

For more challenge, see James 2:1-10

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