in my beginning is my end
Last night in GA's we started a new unit. The director read the scripture, from Matthew 25. Those are the verses about the sheep and the goats, about God's judgment and the uncomfortable relationship between our perceived righteousness and the way we treat the poor. She then told the story about the missionaries we are studying. They work among some of the poorest people in America, and one of their ministries is running a thrift store where families can purchase all the clothing they can carry for $1. After talking about the story, the director asked the girls to think about the verses. "How does God want us to treat people who are poor?" she asked.
Elizabeth, who is in second grade, sometimes has a hard time sitting still during GA's, but despite all the wiggling, she listens. She heard the question, raised her hand, and said, "He wants us to let them in, even if they're strangers."
Out of the mouth of a child.
We make so many excuses for why we don't help the poor, why we don't always welcome them into our churches, why it isn't safe to open our church buildings to people who are addicts and theives and who smell bad, why we can't possibly volunteer on the wrong side of town because our cars might be broken into while we're doing good deeds. Goodness knows I make them.
But I wonder how well all those very sensible, logical arguments stack up when it comes down to how we treat the least of these our brothers and sisters. Jesus makes it pretty clear: "'For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"
I believe in reading the Bible in the context in which it was written. There's not a lot of room for interpretation there. What does God want us to do? He wants us to let them in, even, and maybe especially, if they're strangers. Not just to let them into our homes, but to let them into our communities, into our faith, into our lives, into our hearts. Denial of the poor is denial of Christ.
So why is it so easy for a child to understand, and so hard for us to do?