Monday, March 16, 2015

the least of these

I've been struggling...

It's become obvious to me that God is doing a work in me.  It is not always easy, and is often painful, but it always has a purpose.  Above all, I do believe that God is transforming my way of thinking.  He is asking me to step back from all I know and look at what He is showing me.  It's been a bit radical.  I've seen so many things with "faith eyes" that I never saw before.  And honestly it's been a bit alarming at how much I believed before that actually wasn't true.

For a little while now, I've been struggling with a phrase.  I, personally, have used it a hundred times before and I've heard it used by others a thousand times before that.  It's so common these days in Christian circles that people are using it as their organization's motto, plastering it on billboards and signs, using it on their webpages.  It was a perfectly usable phrase to me before but in recent years it bends me out of shape.

the least of these

I almost shutter.  Not because of how its formulated in a sentence or that I have heard it over and over in bible studies or sermons but because it means something so different to me now than it ever has before.

I'm sure you are wondering why I have such a problem with it or at least why I am taking the time to write this down.  And honestly, I fought God on it all morning.  I knew it would be controversial - and I am FAR for controversial.  I am not a theologian.  And for a long time I thought that meant I shouldn't have any opinion on spiritual things.  But like most things God is teaching me on this faith journey, its not about me - it's about Him.

A while back I heard some people say they were going on a mission trip to Africa to "serve the least of these."  As if "the least of these" were a tribe of people.  Actually, that is exactly what we have turned the phrase into.  A group of people, less fortunate than ourselves, who need us to bring them the hope of a Savior.

It is absolutely true that God wants us to go out into the world, preaching the good news and making disciples.  The Bible commands us to do it.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit..." -Matthew 28:19
There are people all over this world that still need Jesus.  Our work is not done here.  God invites us to be a part of His redemption story by us going and us bringing the good news.  But can we stop calling the ones we are going and bringing the news to, "the least of these?"

In Matthew 25, when Jesus called the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned "the least of these," He wasn't giving us permission to do so, too.  Jesus is the King!  He is pure, blameless, worthy, anointed, the Holy comparison to Him we are all "the least of these."

I think sometimes we forget after we have been a Believer for a long time how hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and imprisoned we once were.  Although our intentions are good - we want to go and help - we somehow don't take the memories we have of our former life with us.  We leave it on our native soil, perhaps waiting for us when we get back but most of the time we leave it there for good.  We don't want a reminder of our former selves, as if we fear others knowing how dirty we really were.

But for a second, think about your former self...

Hungry.  Thirsty.  Naked.  Exposed.  Sick.  Abused.  Addicted.  Imprisoned.  Trapped.  Desperate.  You aren't even a fraction of what you once were.  You aren't even a better version of what you once were.  You are a new version of what you once were.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" -2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus didn't call those brothers and sisters of His "the least of these" in a condescending way or a hurtful way or a judgmental way.  There is no one that sees us for who we really are, like Him.  And His words to us are always said through a filter of love.  As humans, we aren't capable of that.  We try and hope and want to but the reality is our sinful nature prevents us from it.  So when we call others "the least of these" it sounds condescending, hurtful and judgmental - even when we don't mean it to be.

So, please, can we take the phrase "the least of these" out of our vocabulary?  Instead, lets meet our brothers and sisters in their place of hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness and imprisonment.  Not as someone who can't relate but as someone who has already been there.