I think we do a major disservice if we raise our children to “type” need. In considering Matthew 25: 31-46, where Jesus basically breaks it down like so: don’t just do it for Jesus, do it for the “least” of these; it’s easy to walk way looking for the ragged and wondering if behind the smell of urine is Jesus.
After years of praying for God to soften my heart, I have found my heart has led me into a number of experiences with others. I found myself feeling a sense of sadness for a really adorably dressed, well-groomed, “pop-culture pretty” 23 year old “chick”. Similarly, I felt compelled to reach out, aware of the fact that a 40+ year old woman I met was experiencing a deep hunger for the freedom offered through grace. Then I met and prayed with this guy who I realized was suffering in his relationships because of a lack of faith. Then I massaged oil into my Grandmother’s skin the night she died because I could tell… I could just tell.
And so my point: we are all the “least of people”
Really. I think my whole life until a few years back, I took this verse and started to do that thing where everytime I saw a homeless person I thought “What if it’s Jesus??” And give him all my cash in my pocket. (True story: I did this at the ball game then didn’t have $$ to get out of the parking lot at the Courthouse and had to ask the car behind me to spot me..) :-/ #humility
Anyway. I think it’s easy to do this! I think you can get in this mode where people who look poorer than you, act hungrier than you, seem thirstier than you, are on your radar and you feel some great mission to find them based on what you think they look like and treat them all as good as you would if it was Christ himself asking for a bite of your Jimmy John’s.
But here’s the deal:
Have you ever bought yourself a great oufit and looked down to see your kid’s jeans are completely high watered?
Have you ever talked to your boss about workplace politics and realized he was totally frightened?
Have you ever met with a 90 year old woman and felt compelled to touch their hand and kiss them on their cheek like you would a cuddly 6 month old baby?
We are all in that place – never too mighty to be cared for, never too fortunate to be experiencing a deep need for love and grace..
I think this Matthew verse is especially challenging because in it I feel God calls us to truly open our hearts and connect within the human experience. The first time I spent time at a woman’s shelter, I recall praying to God the most concrete prayer walking in: “Open my heart, please.” I was almost begging him to help me. And in my time with the women found myself realizing, “Erin, these women know you know they’re homeless . Don’t see their need – it’s no different than your own need – connect and laugh, relax and hangout.”
The needs Jesus lists are our most common needs and I consider this initial charge to be “Being a Reasonably Good Human Being 101″. I believe starting from an awareness of these needs, you allow caring to settle into your heart – it takes root – and you begin to grow to deeper places of insight.. you are able to move into performing acts of justice. You have a hieghtened awareness and are drawn to things you believe should change. You become more aware of levels deep within people – into a more specific part of the human condition. All of this unique to the eyes of YOUR heart, seeing things that you are especially equipped to notice BECAUSE of the person you are divinely designed to be.
God gave our heart eyes to see spiritual needs in others and by attempting acts of mercy, I feel you obtain some necessary level of humility that allows you to move forward -(aware both in how to care for others and how to accept care) in meeting others in their moments and act towards justice. Always true to your calling. And ultimately able to make a really profound difference in the world.
We are all the least of these.