Are You In? Really In.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Jesus speaking in Matthew 25:40
Those are chilling words, one would think, to a person serious about being a Christian. There is a lot to unpack.
Would a person in prison for a heinous crime qualify as “the least of these”? Would the drug addled addict living in a tent under the interstate qualify? How about a migrant crammed onto a boat with nothing save the clothes on her back qualify? If so, our attitude toward such folks would be perceived by Christ as our attitude toward Him. If Christ is God and God knows all, He knows how we view such human beings even if we never find ourselves in actual encounters with the prisoner, the junkie or the dispossessed.
It is difficult to summon the image of a (for lack of a better word) diligent Christian who is not someone obsessive about this particular verse. Let's face it, we are confronted daily in this age of wonder with a plethora of the downtrodden. More challenging, we are equally confronted with those society has cast out in one way or other, often justifiably. So, if I take the words of Christ seriously (and literally) I am called on to treat these people with respect and care? Love even?
How about, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
What? Love people who hate me?
The verse is so familiar it's a bit like hearing a classic song from the seventies today. You've heard it, literally, hundreds of times. You just hum along without any real thought to the lyrics or the original intent of the artist. I would argue that, again, a diligent Christian would be somewhat fixated on Jesus' very clear and unambiguous direction here and, being human, somewhat taken aback. Do you know anyone who loves their enemies? Really.
I think it reasonable to assume the vast majority of those raging on cable news (all sides) identify themselves as Christians (some quite vociferously). I also think a great many of them hate those with opposing political views. They may not say so in plain English, but the Bible says by their fruits you will know them, not by their disclaimers.
Tough challenges from an ethos that is a tough one to adhere to in the first place.
So, one primary question arises from contemplation on such matters: can a person who skirts around such admonitions from Christ, or just blows them off altogether, really be a Christian?
Well, the Bible says a person is saved by grace, not by works. So there's that. Most people I know who profess Christianity should probably hang on to that one for comfort deep in the night when such pesky technicalities rear their ugly heads.
The devil is in the details. Always.