This article was originally posted in April of 2012. I thought you’d appreciate reading it (or reading it again!) Enjoy!
What if Jesus began attending your church, incognito? There’s a question worth considering! I wonder what His experience would be? Would He feel welcome? Would His experience be relevant, engaging and impacting? What would it be like if He came as ‘Undercover Jesus’?
I’d like to share a very familiar Scripture and then make two intuitive leaps. Stay with me, I’m pretty confident you will be challenged in a unique way by the end.
In Matthew 25 Jesus shared the very vivid illustration of the sheep and the goats. Among other things, He was communicating that there will be a sifting on judgement day; not everyone will be accepted into the kingdom . . .
“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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’””
Intuitive Leap #1
Jesus’ obvious intent is that we are active in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the poor, caring for the sick and visiting the inmate. However, the audience of people He expects us to minister to and care for is much larger than that select group. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine….’ That statement changes a lot. Jesus is not JUST interested in people who are experiencing one of those unique challenges. He is interested in anyone with a felt need. That is the common denominator among circumstances like hungry, thirsty, sick, etc. Christ is exhorting us to expand our reference of who needs care to the hurting, the needy, the lost, the lonely, the broken . . . you get the idea. This especially includes people considered ‘the least of these brothers of mine’.
That pretty much covers your congregation and community. Specifically, it includes church attendees who are particularly needy. It includes every guest that darkens your door “the stranger”. It includes the people who don’t have much of a voice in the life of your church “the inmate” as well as those who suffer from physical or mental disorders “the sick”.
Intuitive Leap #2
The final four words of this passage also requires major consideration: “you did for me.” This passage is much more than a declaration of the kinds of people we should reach. Jesus is clarifying a very big “WHO?”. The answer of ‘Who?’ goes way back to our childhood Sunday School days. It was the only answer that nearly always worked when asked a Bible question: Jesus.
Jesus made it personal. He didn’t stop with, “Care for those needy people.” He played a very different and unexpected card. He connected every single thing we do (or don’t do) for this group of people to His personal relationship with us. Our personal devotions is no longer carried out in the privacy of our home, all by ourselves. It’s public. It’s out there with every person we touch. Jesus told us how to connect with and care for Him. He showed us the key to His heart. And in this passage He vividly declared that it matters.
When we combine these two ideas, it’s clear how important it is that we honor, respect, and genuinely care for every individual in our church, regardless of their circumstances, character or influence.
How does this reminder affect your ministry teams? Do you think you and your leaders genuinely love and care for individuals in your church as if they were Jesus Christ Himself?