By Shane Claiborne.
My friend Lindsay loaned it to me last night [and I passed along, “The Story We Find Ourselves In,” by Brian McLaren.
Lindsay wondered last night as we visited if maybe my crisis of faith has less to do with Jesus and the truth of the [Christian] Bible and more to do with the fact that I have no idea what authentic Christians look like in real life.
See, I know what we believe, but I have no idea what living that faith out looks like in real life because, quite honestly, I’ve never seen it.
And if I, a person who has been steeped in American Christianity and its church have no idea how real Christians act, then it’s probably safe to say that very few people outside the church have either.
The first time I read Acts [which talks about the day to day of the early church] I was amazed at how they lived, and wondered why the people in my church didn’t act more like that.
See, the early church shared equally in what they had, the rich and poor were all on equal footing, and each person gave their time and resources to help out the poor, orphans, widows, prisoners, etc.
When’s the last time I shared my lunch with someone who had no food? When’s the last time I went through my closet and took the extra clothes, shoes, and coats to a place where the poor could have access to it. Or better yet, when’s the last time I sought out a homeless person and bought them lunch, or gave them a coat, blanket, or pillow?
I never have.
Matthew 25:31-37; 40
The Sheep and the Goats
31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
It didn’t say anything about who you put your faith in during those verses, only that you will get what you gave to the poorest of the poor.
It’s also interesting that he wasn’t referring to the preachers/pastors of the world, but to all of us. We should take care of the poor because it’s the right thing to do [thanks, Doug], not to avoid eternal punishment, ’cause frankly, who gives a shit about when I’m dead?
I mean really, can I do one thing to change the reality that I will find on the other side of death? Well, according to this passage, yes, but if it’s all a big fib invented by people to make them feel better about death, then what?
I can’t change the truth of the afterlife, whatever it is, but I can change how I treat my fellow humans while I’m here on this earth. And that is where I have to go with my questions of faith, I think.
Maybe if I put into practice what Jesus said in the Bible, instead of just learning it and admiring him and the disciples for living a life of love, I will really find what it means to follow Jesus.
No more lip service, you know? No more tolerating my own hypocrisy. No more judging the rest of the Christians for not doing what I’m not willing to do either.
Yup, I think where the revolution starts is inside my own heart, and in my own behavior. There are homeless people in my city, just like there are in most. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find out where they go to get help, and go meet a couple. Maybe I’ll volunteer. Maybe I’ll spend a night on the street to see what it feels like to be alone, homeless, and abandoned. Maybe I’ll look at a homeless person and not see and smell an unclean body, but maybe I’ll see the image of God within him or her. Maybe I’ll see a person who deserves all the love I have to give and more.
Maybe I’ll see the reason God came to earth by looking at the people no one sees.
Tonight we were coming home, and as we turned to go under an overpass, I saw a man with bushy black hair, a long, unkempt beard. He was too thin, and his clothes didn’t quite fit right. It looked like he was gesturing, maybe having a conversation with an unseen partner. He shook his hands and paused under the bridge, looked up, and stepped out into the rain.
After we got home, I asked Steve if he’d seen the homeless man under the bridge, and he said no.
That man deserves to be seen and loved just as much as my kids do [and they’re quite wonderful;-)]. The children in Iraq who are dying because of the bombs and lack of medicine caused by our sanctions against Iraq after the first gulf war, deserve to be safe, happy, fed, and well, just like my kids do.
Gandhi said that there is enough in the world to fill every one’s need, but not every one’s greed. The early Christians shared everything they had and took care of the poor among them because they loved God, loved others, and followed Jesus.
God, forgive me, a sinner. I deserve nothing, yet you came to show me a better way to live. Help me follow that example.