It is obvious that with these words, recorded in Matthew 25, Jesus wants us to be uncomfortable; and he wants us to open our eyes, ears and hearts to the needs of those around us. Because none of us has been as attentive to others’ needs as we could have been, and all of us have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, we cannot gloss over this passage of scripture as though it does not refer to us. Who are we in this story? Are we a “sheep” or a “goat”? Or a bit of both? If we do not squirm, we are not facing the truth of our deeply flawed, self-centred human nature.
When Jesus instructs us to “love as I have loved you” we need to realise how far our own ways of loving are falling short of this expectation. When Jesus is calling us to be his love-bearers in a hurting world, we need to become conscious of our own self-centred and self-protective nature, and to experience deeply the ever-new freedom of God’s forgiveness and love. Then our eyes and hearts will be opened to see a stranger in need and respond appropriately. Are we a “sheep” or a “goat”? Or a bit of both?
This is a radical shift! In order to survive as a species we have inbuilt self-protective responses which are necessary for our own survival. Recognising these as important “animal instincts” for the “survival of the fittest”, we are nevertheless being called to something more, to an inner potential which offers possibilities way beyond our basic human nature. Lord, help us to see. Open our eyes, our minds, our hearts…..
Rev Adelene Mills