“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40)
The ancient epics of the Greeks and Romans tell of the people’s belief that they should always feed strangers who showed up in their midst because a stranger might be one of the many gods in disguise. They feared what might happen if they failed to be hospitable, lest a god take vengeance. Christ lived among people who still believed in those gods—people who understood the gravity of failing to be hospitable. But Christ goes beyond hospitality here. He commands the same treatment for the poor and the sick and the needy—not out of fear of retribution but out of compassion for humanity. Over and over again, Christ speaks of himself as one with God and one with us. He reminds us that if we ignore those in need, we are ignoring God, and that if we take care of those in need, we are acting as God’s hands and feet in the world.
Wondering: How can we see ourselves as one with the least among us? How can we be a Matthew 25 church in the world?