The Least Of These
The King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40
In the days before He was to be killed, Jesus had some very intense conversations with people. Every word counted, and every message had the power to change lives. During those days, Jesus argued with religious leaders and he spent time with his closest followers. He talked about having soft hearts towards God, and he predicted a tragic future for those who turned their backs on God
Outward appearance, Jesus explained, can be a sham. God cares far more about the content of the hearts and the expression of our hearts in loving actions. One of the clearest windows on the condition of our hearts, Jesus said, is how we treat “the least of these” around us.
Who are these people? They are the ones most of us ignore. We move to the suburbs to get away from them. If they do get in our way, we pass by as quickly as possible. Avoiding them, though, isn’t what pleases Jesus. He values those of us who see needs and take steps to meet them. The needs of nice, clean people? Yes, but also the needs of those who are dirty, who are outcast, and who can’t give anything in return. We show our devotion to Christ when we feed the hungry, give a drink to those who are thirsty, invite strangers to our homes, clothe those who wear rags, and visit the sick and the prisoners.
“ Small things done with great love can change the world.” Mother Theresa
Jesus spoke powerful, often challenging words to His followers and that includes us who profess to be Christian. We have been called to touch the world with the gospel and that includes touching the least, the last and the lost. It’s easy to gather with those who are like us, who fit in well with our culture and social status. To be sure we may from time to time talk about the needs of those around us. We may talk about the poverty and suffering. We may say to ourselves that we would welcome any and all our gatherings. But let’s look around. Where are those, who are those who are the least, last, or lost?
In his book, In His Steps, Charles Sheldon tells the story of First Church. First Church was a close knit community of upper/middle class people. The pastor took great pride in the music and his sermon and how everything was pleasing to the congregation. One Sunday in the middle of the well-orchestrated service, a man who revealed that he was a tramp printer who had been unsuccessful in seeking work came into the church. As if he was pondering it himself, he asked a life-changing question: “What would Jesus do?” That question so moved the pastor that he felt compelled to consider how he himself would answer it. Sheldon weaves a tale of the members of First Church as each of them responded to the question from their own position in life. The girl who’s future could have been a star opera singer chose instead to use her talents with an inner-city missionary who was working in the slums. The newspaper editor chose to delete any stories that he felt would not in keeping with the Christ life. Others chose to continue their way and ignore the question. Sheldon’s point was to call each of us to answer the question, “What would Jesus do?”
When we look at the community that God has planted us and perhaps the church we attend, do we ask Him what we should be doing with those who live there? Can we continue to drive by their homes on the way to our services and ignore that behind those doors are hurting, lonely, needy people who need hope and sometimes help?
Can we really be content to just have those in our circle in heaven with us or do we come before God with a confession of neglecting our call to the least and the lost and ask for a baptism of compassion for those around us who do not yet know the joy of having such a Savior as we have?
I recognize that there is a somber tone to this devotion. I confess that as I see the scenes of all the things that are happening around us, much of which is heartbreaking, I feel an urgency for the church to fully engage in the Great Commission. One only has to see the devastation in the Ukraine to be reminded that the only hope in this world is Christ. I wonder how many Ukrainians went to bed one night after a normal day only to wake the next with war on their doorsteps. We have read and we believe that Christ is coming again and according to the signs He gave us in Matthew 24, that time is near. Michael West sings a song that asks us a question:
If not us then who?
If not now then when?
How long will we continue to go about our daily routines without giving thought to those around us who may not know Christ and unless they hear the gospel they will be eternally lost? I know that most of us believe in heaven but we can’t believe in heaven without also believing in hell. Just as heaven is eternal, hell is also eternal. The Bible teaches that those who go to heaven spend eternity in eternal bliss and happiness. It also teaches that those who go to hell will spend eternity in torment. Lest we wish to credit this to this writer, let me say that these are the things that Christ Himself taught.
It’s time for change. It’s time for every Christian to engage in the Great Commission and take the message of the Gospel to every person we meet. It’s time to open our hearts, our buildings to any and all and not just be available but to go and invite and welcome those who live around us.
What a beautiful picture of God would it be to become a group of international worshippers of every color, tribe and tongue lifting up voices in unified praise and worship. I hope this becomes your dream too and that we will start acting to bring it to pass.
Dr. John Thompson