Weekly Reflection (NEW!)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
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Read Matthew Chapter 25: 31-46 in your Bibles.
Itís a warm summer evening. You have played hard all day long and have had your dinner. The twilight sky begins to reveal the first stars and you go out to find your friends. They have gathered in the biggest yard, in the park, or in a field. Itís time for that great summer tradition: a game of tag. Somebody volunteers to be "it," and the game begins. People scatter running everywhere. The person who is "it" is fast and people are being eliminated until only two remain. Then the inevitable happens. The strange thing is it happens every time you and your friends play. The last person yet to be tagged takes off. This guy or girl doesnít stay in the yard, but takes off running in a straight line through the neighborhood as if being chased by Death.
Somebody, usually the one who is "it," yells, "No fair! You canít do that. Youíre out of bounds! You have to come back!" The runner comes back, but stays a safe distance away: "We didnít say what was in bounds and what was out. I can go wherever I want!"
The argument continues back and forth until some street lights start to come and time starts to press in. Parents will be calling soon. Itís suggested that boundaries be set and somebody else can be "it." Whatís in and whatís out is determined. The game continues until the mournful call of mom or dad is heard and all disperse.
Most games have boundaries. They make a game able to be played. There are other boundaries in life as well. Society determines rightly or wrongly what is acceptable in a culture. People have personal boundaries as what they will or will not do. Even laws such as speed limits have upper and lower boundariesócross the boundary and you get nailed.
But what about faith? What about the boundaries to faith in God? Itís not popular today to speak of such things. We want to believe that whatever works for a person is good and right. Faith is too personal a matter to have boundaries from the outside imposed upon it. But is it? You can faith in yourself, humanity, or money. You can faith in just about anything. But to have faith in God comes with some boundaries.
The passage I had you read is familiar to many and when I was struggling with the question of boundaries to faith in God, I thought of this Judgment Day scene. Christ is separating the nations into those who will receive eternal life and those who will receive eternal punishment. Both groups donít even realize why they are being separated as they are. Jesus tells those who are blessed are those who served "the least of these." Those who are cursed did not serve "the least of these." Neither group had any idea the implications of their actions. Those who served did not do so to win Godís approval or even eternal life. Those who served responded out of love because of the love that they had been shown. They loved the "least of these" because it flowed out of the natural faith they possessed. Those who did not love the "least of these" could not be bothered by such inconsequential persons because they would have nothing immediate to gain because of their service.
This particular boundary of faith then is this: Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). A faith in God that does not spur you to action is a useless faith. God proclaims that the merciful are blessed and happy. Mercy is compassion acted out. "Aw, geez," youíre thinking, "Iíve gone out of bounds so many times, Iím sure to be on the short end of the stick come Judgment Day." Maybe. But hereís the thing. We canít worry about that. If that is all we are worried about then the love and service we show is just really to save our skins and that is definitely not faith.
No, donít lose sleep over this. God loves you. God in Christ loves you so much that God even died for you to tell you of that love. God even rose from the dead to tell you of that love. Go on, then, itís just after dinner. Dusk is upon us. Go tag some of the "least of these" with Godís love as you play out your faith.
Pray that God will give you the faith and the strength to love and serve your neighbor in need.