Advent: December 17

Matthew 25:31-36

When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, "My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."

I’m sure you know the script on this one. Those who are standing on the right are baffled that Jesus has said that they had looked after him. Jesus replies that in doing such things for any of God’s people they had done it for him. The ones standing on the left are somewhat aggrieved that they get the opposite treatment – you did not visit me, etc. But they had done nothing for anyone.

While it’s a simple story, helped by the two balancing scenarios, it states plainly and starkly that we are called to be hospitable. Hospitality is extended to include clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners. Not all prisoners across this world are in prison for doing bad things.

We love what the Salvation Army does. It might be that we are glad that they’re doing it so we don’t have to. We might not like getting into the sort of places they go or dealing with the sort of people they deal with. We might not like regular commitment as it makes demands on our work, family and social life. Left side or right side – you choose.

Do you feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty? Yes/No

Do you welcome strangers? Yes/No

Do you clothe the naked? Yes/No

Do you care for the sick? Yes/No

Do you visit prisoners? Yes/No

Which of these does your church do?

Father God, I do not want to stand on the wrong side of You. If I or my church is found wanting in the care we offer to others then I confess my personal or our corporate failure before You. Help me put it right. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Paul