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Matthew 25:31-46

May 16, 2011

Matthew 25:31-46 reads:

31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And 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.’

41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cused, into the everlasting fire prepared fro the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ The He will answer then, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.”

Some years ago, this passage really gripped my heart. I was surprized by how my heart tore apart within me as i read it. I started thinking in that moment, “Which hand would i be seperated to? What side would God put me on?”

I won’t say that this passage has become a ‘life-verse’ sort of thing, like the kind someone would quote when they give a testimony or something. But i would venture to say that i have tried, through the years, to live my life in this manner. I empty my pockets for the homeless when i see them on the street. I have given to various charities that address the issues brought up in this passage.

I wasn’t sure i should share this but i feel i need to:

Last week Sunday was Mother’s Day. As a break from the ordinary, I took my mother out for dinner. We often share meals together, but this time we decided to go to a local restaurant in our small town. As we were eating a strange thing happened: A homeless man walked by with a bicycle and some personal effects. People could see him and started murmuring. As did my mother and i. I don’t know what the rest were talking about, but we were trying to decide if we should invite him in and buy him a meal.

The trouble was that we were just about done eating. So instead, we quickly finished up, and oddly enough my mother paid for our meal, even though i had invited her out. In the mean-time, i went outside and found the homeless man down the street a little way.

Jerry, as it turns out, has been homeless for a while, drifting from place to place as he goes. I asked him if i could get him some food, but all he wanted was a shower. I invited him to my place, let him shower, washed some of his clothes, gave him some food, and talked with him for a few hours so he could rest a while. Then we packed up his stuff, loaded it into my RAV4 and drove 45 minutes to an hour west (the direction he was heading), where i dropped him off.

During the whole of our conversation, i was waiting for a moment when God would open up the door so that i could tell Jerry about God’s love for him. The problem was that at one point Jerry asked what i did for work, and i told him i was a youth pastor. After this moment, it was almost impossible to get Jerry to talk about anything meaningful.

I felt disheartened. I so badly wanted to share God’s love with Jerry. Before we drove west i stopped by the office and picked up a bottle of water and a New Testament, and thought if i don’t get a chance to share the message of God’s love, i’ll at least slip a New Testament into Jerry’s bags so he can read about it for himself. When i dropped him off i had just such and opportunity, and slipped the New Testament into one of the bags before sending him on his way.

I shared this story with a small group of friends from church this past week, and after our meeting one of them approached me with something like this (it wasn’t these exact words, but the message is the same), “Jason, you said that you were hoping that you would get the chance to share the message of God’s love with Jerry, but that he closed up and you didn’t get the chance. I would argue that you did speak, loud and clear, that love.”

I almost wept. In that moment i remembered the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

The words of Matthew 25:31-46 are such a natural part of my life that i forget sometimes that is what God wants from us.

The words of St. Francis, i might argue, have lost a lot of meaning over the course of time. I would argue that Christians have used the words of St. Francis as an excuse so they don’t have to share God’s message out loud, and in the process have lost the boldness to share the message altogether.

Forgive me Father, for thinking that i always have to be speaking. Forgive me for forgetting that your love is displayed through me and my actions.

As a youth pastor, i have to do a lot of talking. I forget that God’s message is being spoken even when words aren’t being spoken.

I want to challenge you with this post:

Have you used the words of St. Francis as an excuse not to preach to your coworkers?

Have you used these words as a way out from sharing with your lost relatives and friends?

Do your actions show the love of God?

Can anyone you meet tell that there is something different about you because of the love of God in your life, simply by your actions?

If you’ve used St. Francis’ words as an excuse out of sharing God’s love with others, or, if you as a child of God have not shown his love through your actions, I want to encourage you to pray this prayer:

Holy Father, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for not living my life as an example of who you are. Forgive me for living selfishly and not displaying your mercy and grace in my life.

I commit Father, to taking the opportunities that you provide for me, to share your gospel message. Until my actions say what my heart feels, I will use words to express that love. I will use words to preach the gospel.

But I also commit Father, to a Matthew 25 lifestyle. I commit to loving and caring for “the least of these” so that my actions may speak your love, when words cannot.

I thank you Father, for rescuing me. And I thank you for the testimony I have, that I might share it with others so that they can experience your love, just as I have.

I pray that You would ignite the fire of love in my heart, for the sake of the salvation of others, and for the glory that is due your name.

I pray Father, that the words of St. Francis would be shown in my life, that I might “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, I’ll use words.” But until this becomes a reality in my life Father, I will use words. I pray for boldness in the moment. Boldness for the situation that you present to me, that I would have the words to speak. Not the words of a broken man, but the words of the Living Lord coming out of my lips, preaching Truth in the moment. Preaching words of love through the boldness that you give me.

Amen.

If you made it this far in the post, and if you prayed the prayer, get ready. Because God is going to start to use you to awaken a generation that has been sleeping. God is going to put you in situations and give you opportunities to start sharing his love with people. He is going to stir your heart with boldness to bring forth the message of hope that He longs to share with everyone. Don’t stifle it. Don’t shrug it off. Jump into the moment with complete abandon and allow God to work through you. For his glory and for his honor. Amen.

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