Being a dad, I am strong in the animal sounds category. Pigs oink and cows mooo and rhinos snort and snuff (astute readers of Moo, Baa, La la la will get that reference) sheep baaa and goats maaaa.
Jesus warns that at the end of days the nations will be brought before him and he will separate out the sheep from the goats. The goats, to put it colloquially, are screwed. The sheep will be living large. And the difference? A consonant – a b or an m… a baaa or a maaa.
It is a haunting scene he lays out at the end of Matthew 25. There has been much theological debate about what it means and who the animals represent. Many argue that what Jesus is saying here doesn’t apply to those who follow him – that this is a sort of second chance for those who hadn’t made the decision to follow him. Others argue that this is a terrifying challenge for all believers – a challenge to never become comfortable in their faith.
I don’t know what it means. I do know, however, that it has haunted me.
One sleepless night in Uganda I started thinking of this passage in a new way.
The thing that haunted me is the thing that haunts many who read the passages. Jesus is saying to one group that as they served the least of the world they were serving him. And he was saying to another group that as they failed to serve the least they failed to serve him. But what does serving him mean? Jesus says that as they visited the imprisoned and fed the hungry and clothed the naked they served him. But how much is enough? How much isn’t enough? What is that line between really serving Jesus and really failing him?
In the midst of the suffering I was witnessing something came clear – my questions were all wrong. Jesus wasn’t saying, “Well, you visited me 9 days a year in prison, welcome to paradise.” He wasn’t saying “Gosh, you only visited me 1 day in prison, see ya.” He was simply saying, “Thank you for serving me as I was found in the least of the least.”
Put more simply he is saying thank you for doing something.
And that is what it is about. We aren’t called to try and solve all the world’s problems. No one person is going to be able to care for the 2.5 million orphans living in Uganda… let alone the millions of orphans in other countries around the globe. We aren’t going to eradicate the slums. We aren’t going to be able to treat every single suffering person. But that isn’t what we are called to do. Jesus just calls us to do something… do anything to help the hurting.
Paralysis in the face of the world’s problems is the one thing we cannot afford to acquire. We have to engage. We have to do. We have to try. We have to make it part of our daily lives. We have to be his hands and feet on this earth.
This thought has liberated me; it has freed me up to do what I can while freeing me from the unrealistic expectation that I am going to be able to do everything… and it has given me the peace to believe that at the end of days I will be baaaaaaing and not maaaaaaaing.