Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:34-36
We sell ourselves short. We hear and we read our Bibles. We even are moved by passages like those above. Our emotions become engaged, tears may fill our eyes, and our hearts swell when we read these words of Jesus.
But sometimes we encounter what these words – and so many others like them – really mean. We encounter those whose lives are illustrative of poverty and hunger, dirt and chaos, unpleasant smells and disruption and noise. In those encounters it’s hard to remember that these are precisely the moments those words are meant to illuminate for us.
Too often, though, we don’t make that crucial, absolutely critical link that Jesus was so hoping for. We don’t look at our discomfort and the words from Matthew and say – “Aha! This is what it’s about.” If Jesus’ words kicked right into place when we find ourselves getting up close and personal with someone who lives on the streets, and looks and smells as though they live on the streets, would our responses look more like Jesus’? When our comfortable environment of church or neighborhood or family is made messy by the presence of those who don’t act as we do, don’t observe our social mores and norms, and don’t seem to care as we do, can we respond with generosity and love and even joy? Well – yes we can.
We sell ourselves short. If living as Jesus did is messy, then we can expect life to get messier and messier the closer we come to his way of living. But we can live that life and live it joyfully. It does require our willingness, though, to go to God and ask for patience and love and joy. If we ask, they will be given. Period. And the noise and disruption, the chaos and messiness, and even the fear we feel will fade away. God will do that for us if we ask.
It’s not comfortable, living a Jesus life. But I believe beyond doubt that we all can do that. We have to want to do it, of course. We have to ask for the grace of God, because living as Jesus did is just simply beyond the capability of most of us. We must be able to laugh at ourselves and our pretensions. We have to know when our unhappiness is located in our own hearts and lives, and not lay blame out there in the world. We need to be able to give and never expect thanks.
I have faith that you and I can do it, with the grace of God…if we don’t sell ourselves short.