Jan. 25, 2023 – Matthew 25

Every morning I open up my email and scroll through headlines of current events in the news. As I sip my hot coffee my eyes move past headlines of pain that are happening around the world, around the country, and even here in our community. I take another drink of coffee and feel sad. As I finish the quick recap of world news littered with mass shootings, war, and countless injustices and calamities, I click out of that email and move on to the next, finishing my coffee and getting on with my day.

As I reflect on this task, I am aware that there is only so much I alone could do to contribute to the remedies of injustices in the world, but it’s not lost on me how desensitized I have become to bad news. I ask myself, “As a follower of Jesus, what is my duty in a broken world?” Further, as the body of Jesus, what is our collective duty in a broken world?

In our reading on Monday, the religious leaders ask Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment” in hopes of stumping him, expecting him to invalidate the law or go against the Jewish teachings. Jesus doesn’t delegitimize the law, in fact, he states in Matthew 5:17 that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. His answer to their riddle re-emphasizes the importance of taking action rather than just regurgitating the correct answer.

Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The rest of the law hangs on this act of loving the people God loves.

Upon hearing this command the immediate question is “Who is my neighbor?” As I hear about things happening in my own community, I’m left asking this question. Are they my neighbor? What does it look like to love them? Are they part of the community of believers or are they outsiders? Do they belong or not?

Jesus answers these questions in our reading for today. In Matthew 25:31-45, Jesus illustrates what it looks like to follow him. This time, the act of loving your neighbor is specified by giving the hungry something to eat, the thirsty something to drink, inviting the stranger in, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and visiting those in prison. The command to love your neighbor as yourself is elevated to love your neighbor as if they are Jesus. The “neighbor” is redefined as Christ’s very brothers and sisters.

The parable itself doesn’t seem to be concerned about their identity other than to identify their suffering. The parable is far more concerned about how believers have lived out their baptismal vocation and let their light shine before others so that all may see their good works and give glory to God.

It is not our duty to solely mend the injustices of the world, but God is inviting us to be a part of the work of reconciliation that the Spirit of God is currently doing. Jesus makes the point that we love God by being a part of this work. As the hands and feet of God, we are called to live a life of mercy and to touch those around us with the same posture that Christ used to heal the sick and eat with the lowly.

I look outward at the world, and I see a lot of pain— it’s not hard to do. We are all confronted with the agony around the world through news recaps and articles while simultaneously grieving the pain that is often happening in our own lives or the lives of those close to us. The good news is that Jesus is present in the midst of our pain, and grieves with us. Just as God calls us to walk in mercy and compassion with those around us, he promises that we also will be embraced with mercy in our own lives.

Even as Christ is raised from the dead and seated far above all rule and authority, he is not distant. He is a King who still lives among his people. He is a merciful ruler who still comes to meet us in all our brokenness and calls us to meet him in the needs of a broken and suffering world.

Questions for reflection:

  1. Take a look at what is happening in your community and your context. What do you rejoice in? What do you grieve or mourn?
  2. What small ways can you contribute to tending to the grief and hardship in your community?
  3. Take a look into your own life. What do you rejoice in? What do you grieve or mourn? How do you find restoration in your own life? What does it look like to have more compassion for yourself?