Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jesus in Disguise

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22: 34-40 
Jesus tells us that the most important thing is not only to love the Lord with everything we have, but to love each other as much as we love ourselves.  If you are anything like me you may find yourself thinking that is really hard.  Sure I love my family and I have love for my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, but do I really have love for someone who's point of view I completely disagree with?  Do I love the dirty homeless person who I see on the street who's probably there because they are addicted to drugs?  Do I love someone who doesn't believe in Jesus and hates everything to do with Christianity?
Jesus said “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36  Did you see that it even said wicked?  I think that covers everyone.  God loves them just as much as he loves us.
Do you remember that song by Joan Osborne from back in the 90s?  What if God was One of Us?  I used to think that song was kind of blasphemous.  "...Just a slob like one of us..."  I thought "Of course he is not one of us!  He is King of the Universe, not a slob!"  I was recently challenged in my thinking when I read about the sheep and the goats:
  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All 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.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    “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.  For 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,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
    “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.  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, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
    “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?’
    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
I want to be in the sheep section, don't you?  So maybe that Joan Osborne lady was on to something after all.  What if that "stranger on the bus" really is God?  Jesus pretty much tells us to treat him as he is.  If we are doing something kind for those people, it is just like we are Mary Magdalene washing Jesus' feet. 
Try this:  imagine every person you see today is Jesus in disguise.  I don't mean fall on your feet worshiping them, but be kind to them in the way you would want to be kind to Jesus if he needed something from you.  See how that changes your outlook and how much love it fills you up with.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the love that you have shown us.  To give us your Son is the ultimate and unimaginable portrayal of just how much you love all of us.  Lord, fill us up with your love so that we might give it away, freely, to anyone and everyone we come across.  So that those who don't know you will see your love in us and want some, too.  Let us be identified as your children by outsiders seeing your light shine in us!