Friday, December 6, 2013

Sheep or Goat? Is that fair?

He wasn't talking about sheep and goats, you know.  He was just using the shepherd's illustration because it would be familiar.  Everybody had the visual to go with it; the end of a dusty day, a crowd of tired animals, and the shepherd sorting them out for their pens.

I was hungry and you fed me . . .

No religion here; just illustration. Individual by individual, some to the right, some to the left, and it's not about membership. He explains that it's about how we lived; was it for ourselves alone, or did we include others. Maybe it's whether we cared or not, too.

He himself was well-off and comfortable, comparatively speaking, when he set it all aside and came to us. All of us were the needy ones. He could have just sent everybody money, I suppose, but he gave himself. We needed something, a different heart maybe, and he made a way for us. He gave everything, until he had nothing left.

About the giving thing; I doubt he means the $20 here or there to make a sad feeling go away. He probably has a larger context in mind; caring deeply, to the point where we'll forgo some comfort, maybe.

Pretty straightforward, isn't it. We care; we cover the cost, we do what it takes to make a difference. When we do those things, we do it to him, he says. Or, we don't.

So if we learn, and we share his heart, that suggests perhaps we've become a bit like him. And if we didn't learn and we didn't live it out, it's because we didn't know his heart. Or him. At least that's what it sounds like. Like we never knew him at all.

It's maybe too familiar; we've heard it so many times, but didn't know what to do with it. Perhaps now?
... and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Welcome, you who are blessed by my Father! Take your place in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why-

You saw me when I was hungry; you stopped and fed me,
You saw that I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
You saw that I was homeless and you gave me a room,
You saw I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
You saw when I was sick and you stopped to visit,
You saw me in prison; you made time and came to me.’

They'll exclaim wonderingly, ‘But sir, what are you saying? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will answer, ‘I'll tell you; when you did these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me. You didn't pass me by.’

Then he will turn to the ones on his left and say, ‘Get out, cursed ones! Your place is with those rebels who tore themselves away from my father's house. And why? Because -

You saw me hungry and turned away; you gave me no meal,
You saw when I was thirsty and turned away; you gave me no drink,
You saw that I was homeless and passed me by; you gave me no bed,
You saw me shivering and went on to your own affairs; you gave me no clothes,
You saw me when I was sick and in prison, and you were busy; you never visited.’

Then those on the left will say, ‘But sir! When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and not help?’

He will answer them, ‘I'm telling the truth; when you failed to do those things for someone like that, that was me - you failed to do it for me. You turned away.’"
Don't look at me; I'm not the one that said all that.  He says kingdom, but does that mean heaven?  Or something in this life?  Or what?  Is the kingdom he referred to here and now and inside us?  He had a lot more to say than just this, of course, but I get the idea that we're supposed to be changed, somehow, and the change will redefine the way we live. And perhaps the reason as well.