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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jesus in the Least of These

Have you ever pondered the idea that your every thought is potentially wrong? That what you think you know could all be a lie. I have. Very recently. And it was a picture that did it. One image.
It is an image connected with the image shown above: of the Lidice children of World War II.
These children are depicted moments before they’re shipped off in a train for the gas chambers.
Their faces are chilling. Their eyes soulless. Wee small children. The look of death in their demeanour. Eighty-two souls. Exterminated on a whim.
Now to Jesus: recall Him teaching about how people are to follow Him as Lord. Who does Jesus identify with and as? He is a hungry or thirsty person; a stranger; a prisoner; a sick person; a person needing clothing… a person in need. He is the person who has nothing, and who is completely reliant on another person’s compassion.
In Matthew 25:45 Jesus berates the world and the church for treating with disdain the person He identifies as. “I am telling you for a fact: in failing to do these things for one of these who are least important, you failed to do them for me.”[1] The consequences for the sin of favouring the more important people are spelled out in verse 26.
Did Jesus identify as a successful, affable, popular person? No, He was in the least of these. To these Jesus calls us.
Out of such a context, Jesus does not call us to grow His church with people we choose not to disciple, nor wow people with our impressive entertainment sets, nor have us show off our sophisticated pastoral processes and systems. He doesn’t call us to performance management, recruitment of the best pastor, nor even to facilitate the most streamlined members meetings. The church has fallen in love with secularised ways of doing things, these less weighty matters,[2] even in places where I have seen direct evidence that leading secular organisations have long departed from staid ways of doing business. The church can never be about business. The church has a sharply social agenda.
Jesus calls us to love.
The Lidice children. That’s who Jesus is. He is one of these forgotten ones. He is in the child that is being horribly abused right now. He is in the disabled child and special needs adult. He is in the homeless beggar that we cannot stomach the smell of. He is in the prisoner who has been rejected by all-and-sundry, except the compassionate prison guard. He is in me and you, because we, ourselves, are so awfully broken inside — when every other reliance is stripped away, and all we truly have left is God.
In a Lidice child there is a courage we have perhaps never had to contemplate — a sense of hopeless forlornness that one must experience the moment before life is snuffed out. Jesus is in the least of these; the one without brother or sister; the loneliest of them all.
This is the ministry He is trying to connect us with. A ministry that searches deep inside another soul to ensure beyond knowing that that person is not missed, not abandoned, not misunderstood, not patronised, nor assaulted in any way, but loved to the measure of Christ. That no matter how well adjusted and normal they look, that this one before us is met with the eyes, ears, hands and feet of the Saviour.
This is why it is imperative that we no longer trust our own thoughts, but bring them captive to Christ,[3] to ensure we are never flippant about eternal things, and, that where we are, we hold ourselves to sharp spiritual account, having the conviction of the Holy Spirit dwelling richly within. Ours is not simply the fruit of faith, but crucially the fruit of repentance, also. These are matters of life and death before us.
Jesus turns our world upside down. Let us not miss the full gospel in this age of settling for some of it. Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom — we must look to the least of these in all matters of life, and not least, where we, ourselves, are the least of these — where He most wishes to heal us.

[1] From Under the Southern Cross, Australian English 2014 version.
[2] See Matthew 23:23.
[3] See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

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