Reflections on Matthew 25:31-46
What’s your reaction to Jesus’ words in this passage? Not your response or reasoned thinking about what He says, but your initial reaction. Do His words at any level make you uncomfortable? And if so, what is it that makes you uncomfortable? I ask only because this passage can rattle people at different levels.
Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus speaks about His return with certainty, as a fact, not a theory to be debated.
Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus speaks of a judgment for all people.
Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because you don’t know if you’d end up tagged as a sheep or a goat.
Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable because Jesus says this judgment is based on visible evidence that your beliefs change the way you see the world and how you treat others.
Perhaps you find yourself trying to catalog your good deeds.
Or perhaps you find yourself identifying with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or the imprisoned.
In this passage, Jesus calls His hearers back to the essence of true religion, just as He did when He said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:34-40).
It seems that love for God inexorably leads to love for others (1 John 4:7-12, 20-21), a love that is demonstrated in action (1 John 3:16-18), a love that has compassion as a defining characteristic.
Compassion: deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
—"compassion." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 14 May. 2009.
God is by nature compassionate. When God told Moses His name, He identified Himself as—
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God…”—Exodus 34:6
God’s compassionate nature was evident in Genesis 3 when He came looking for the couple who were now lost in sin, with the intent to rescue and restore them. This pattern continues throughout the Old Testament, revealing God’s compassion for men, women, and children. Over and over, His concern and love for the people He created turns into action on their behalf.
God’s compassion comes to fullest expression in the life of Jesus…
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!—Philippians 2:6-8
In 1 Corinthians 12, we discover that we as believers are now the physical representation of Christ in the world. Just as Jesus revealed God’s compassion in His life, God desires that, through our lives, we will reflect His compassion to a hurting world.
Who do you know who is…
In need of food or water, or a place to live?
In need of spiritual strength, hope or encouragement?
Lonely or alone?
In need of clothes?
Sick or suffering?
In prison or caught in a prison of their own making?
In need of someone to care?
In need of someone to believe in them until they can believe in themselves?
In need of a new start?
God’s plan from the beginning was that His people would become a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-3).
What does God want you to do to help and bless others with the material and spiritual resources He has given you?
Paul echoes this same thought in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4—
Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.
Many people struggle to believe that God cares for them due to the ever-present nature of their personal suffering. Those who escape the destructive cycle of their lives often speak of a friend who believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves, of a friend who pointed them to God’s presence and compassion, of friends who cared enough to come alongside them in their need and care for them.
What hope and help do you have to offer others? What experience of His compassion and comfort can you offer to others who are hurting or in trouble?
As we are being transformed into the image of Christ, Bible study and prayer are not the end goal. Those, along with other spiritual habits, are means of shaping us in God’s image, of creating in us a compassionate heart that sees the world as God sees it and transforms us into people who see the needs of others around us, people who are moved to reach out to others and meet their needs in the name of Christ.
What is revealed about your heart by your reaction to seeing people in need?
What is God doing to carve out space for compassion for others in your heart?
Who do you know right now who needs God to meet their needs?
What do they know of God’s compassion because of your response to their situation?
What is God calling you to do to meet the needs of others?
To view the worship celebration related to this Next Step, visit http://www.touchandchange.com/artman/publish/article_1620.shtml