Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sheep Good...Goats Bad!

The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus is speaking:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'  "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'  "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'  "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

This has always been one of my favorite scriptures, but for many in the church, it is a hard one to wrap our minds around.  Tony Campolo was once accused of heresy for saying that this scripture is indicating that we should treat everyone we come in contact with as if they are Jesus.  Not that everyone IS Jesus- that we should treat them as if they are Jesus.  What else are we to take from these words of the Christ?  The bigger question becomes "what would happen if we actually lived out these words?"  The world would be a very different place.  "The least of these" are the very people our world chooses to hate and ignore.  Not only do we not take care of the people Jesus is speaking of, we turn from them on the streets.  We accuse them of not trying or being lazy.  We tell them to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps"- even if they no longer have them!  We think, and sometimes even say, that they are just getting what they deserve. (I thank God everyday that I don't get what I deserve, and you should too!) The roots of all racism and prejudices are found in the way we treat "the least of these."  This would not be true- this COULD NOT be true- if we were following these instructions from Jesus.

Jesus told us in various places to love our neighbor, to turn the other cheek and to love everone.  And yet Matthew 25 is often treated as if it was added to scripture by someone else.  Tony C. has often pointed out that this is the ONLY place in scripture where Jesus himself tells us what it will take to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The sheep- those who take care of their fellow man and treat others like they would treat Jesus- will join Jesus for eternity.  The goats- well let's just say they are in trouble!  We talk about faith and belief and understanding the Bible and so many things; where is our compassion?  Where is our realization that there is "that of God in everyone" as the earliest Quakers believed?  Wearing a christian t-shirt, being against the right things, listening to christian radio and attending church on occasion will never replace loving and caring for the other humans with whom we share this space.  You'll still be a goat!  And goats are bad...

In Genesis, after Cain murders Abel and God asks where Abel is, Cain responds by saying "Am I my brothers keeper?"  In Matthew 25, Jesus emphatically says YES!  So join the revolution- be a sheep!  Offer love and help and care to the very people who scare you, the people who make you nervous.  Lend a helping hand to the people society tells you to hate.  God's love can and will change the world- but only if we share it with EVERYONE!  So join in everyone- BAAAAAAA!  I wanna' be a sheep- 'cause sheep are good!

Because of Jesus,

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