Last night I swallowed a reality pill, and the side effects were a giant dose of humility. It’s a concept I’ve heard of before, but last night I think I fully digested it. A friend’s Twitter re-posting of my pastor’s blog caught my eye, so I opened my bible to the place it referenced. Matthew 25: 31 -46. It’s the passage that talks about two groups of people: one who asks “when did we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite strangers in, tend to the sick, or visit prisoners?” To the group that did these things, ie: served their fellow-man, he said “whatever you have done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done to me.” To the group who did not do these things, ie: failed to serve their fellow man, he said “whatever you have not done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have not done to me.”
“My brothers and sisters” … that’s the reality pill for me. I’ve heard and read this story before, but it appeared to me on an entirely different, very real level. Jesus is identifying himself with human beings. He is calling us his brothers and sisters, his family. He is identifying with us so closely that he says whatever you do to them, it’s like you’re doing it to me. What you fail to do for them, you fail to do for me.
That crazy odd concept that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” at the same time made more sense to me last night. By stuffing himself (God) into the humbling flesh and nature of a human being, Jesus became “related” to us on a whole new level. God wasn’t just our Creator through Jesus, he became our flesh and blood relative. He shared in our human struggles in a way we never thought a distant “somewhere out there” God ever could. That makes the phrase “down to earth” resound on a higher wavelength for me.
“My brothers and sisters” … if God relates to us as brothers and sisters, then we should too. And by relating to people, on some level we relate to God. This absolutely blows my mind! It’s not just a bumper sticker or bracelet philosophy like “What would Jesus do?” It’s a life altering concept to think that the way I treat another person is the way I treat the God of the universe who is literally called Love. Do I care for my fellow man and tend to his or her needs? Do I ignore them with an indifferent posture? By doing so I am either nurturing love (Love) or deflecting love (Love).
My immediate response was “God what can I do?!” “Who needs me? Who can I help and how?” But it occurred to me a split second later that my over-eager response would die out with the coming of tomorrow, because I was looking to make a grand impact in my fervent response. Jesus let me know in that moment that he doesn’t necessarily want me to go seeking out opportunities, while that is certainly a good thing. Rather, he wants to shift my heart attitude in such a way that when a need arises, I’ll naturally meet it. It is in our daily encounters with people where needs are made known. They are subtle, which is why I think Jesus referenced simple things like hunger, thirst, companionship, healing, and sticking by someone in tough times.
“My brothers and sisters” … next door, in the checkout line, on the subway, on the bus, a few cubicles down, alone at the park, in the gay pride parade, two church isles behind me, in the suit running for office, in my home in a chair, on the internet in a chat room, bumming a cigarette, holding a sign for food, handing me food at the drive-thru, looking at me for some trace of kindness or connection.
My brothers and my sisters …
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “