Summary: Following Christ involves ’being’ not just ’doing’.
Men seem to be wired to describe who we are in terms of our jogs. Women describe themselves in terms of relationships. These aren’t’ good or bad they simply are. In the song, Lose My Soul, Kirk Franklin questions this notion of our identity when he sings, "The paparazzi flashes and that they think that it’s you but they don’t know that who you are is not what you do"
When asked, "Who are we spiritually" do we answer with a list of what we do at church or of who we are in a relationship with at church? I propose God’s call us isn’t about doing as much as it is about being. Jesus’ disciples were call not to just do something different but to be someone different. Peter, James, John shift from fishing to preaching, from mending nets to leading the Church. Matthew goes from a con man and traitor to a testimony of Jesus’ power to change him. Paul, a good Jewish boy, is changed from a persecutor of the church to missionary to the Gentiles. Each of these actions comes about because they became someone different.
When Jesus comes back to earth he will not only complete the salvation we’re enjoying now but He will also judge all people. We are not as quick to think of Christ’s judgment to an outer darkness, a banishment to a place where God is not. Our essential tenet states:
"Finally, in the fullness of time, Jesus Christ will leave the Father’s side to return to earth in glory to fulfill God’s promised purposes. All believers look forward to this Day when our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like Christ’s glorious body and the Church, the bride, will be presented to her bridegroom. For Christ will liberate creation from its bondage to corruption, judge the living and the dead, usher in a new heaven and earth, and establish God’s everlasting Kingdom. ’Even so, come Lord Jesus!’"
In the Evangelical Presbyterian Church the only addition is that "Jesus Christ will come again to the earth-personally, visibly, and bodily-to judge the living and the dead" That is assumed in the New Wineskins statement of fulfilling God’s promises.
Our text in Matthew 25 shows us what God is looking for in our lives as we stand before Him. What does God seek? He seeks evidence in our lives that we have loved the "least of these". Who are these least? They are the hungry, naked, thirsty, imprisoned, poor, homeless, HIV Positive, widows, orphans, those in sham marriages, the addicted, the depressed, and a myriad of others. Jesus’ examples serve the point of laying out for show His audience the type of people they would recognize in their day-to-day life.
What is commended? It’s not thinking about doing good things for them. It’s not organizing a program, starting a foundation or praying for them. It is meeting their needs. It is meeting their needs in practical ways. Does it solve their problem? We have no idea but it fulfills God’s wishes for us because in seeking to meet their needs we end up serving Christ Himself. Think about it, when we give a lunch to someone on the streets of Portland we are, in fact, giving that lunch to Jesus Christ. Those sandwiches, bottle of water, snacks and whatever else that goes in there is a gift to none other than the King of Kings.
The opposite is also true, when we fail to see Jesus in those who are the "least" we are cast away. When we fail to act in a loving way toward others we risk showing ourselves as unsaved and just like the rest of the world, which, as Scripture says, is headed for destruction.
Are we saved by what we do? No! But what we do is the evidence that the salvation we claim to have is real. Does doing good things help us get a better place in line when it comes to heaven? No! but refusing to meet the needs of the least of these is will effectively cut us out from that line altogether.
Why should we care? Because our King cares. The story is told that during LBJ’s term as President, the first lady started hating the ugliness which ran along US highways. It may be apocryphal, but it was reported President Johnson told advisors, "What Lady Bird wants, Lady Bird gets". Barrister Rumpole describes his wife as "She who must be obeyed" so too we might describe our King as "The Lord who must be obeyed, and who gets what He wants."
Recognize that we are not the end-user, the ultimate source of power, or even the owner of our most precious thing. We are servants of a King and Lord and here to do His bidding.