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A Living Church

A Living Church – Serving

A Living ChurchThe Old Testament records different prophetic voices warning Israel about the dire consequences of actions taken by its leaders and its people, always with the proviso that such consequences may be avoided with a suitable change of direction and heart.

This week’s gospel passage [Matt 25:31-46] records Jesus speaking to his disciples in the days before his arrest about a coming time when nations and peoples will be called to give account of their actions (or lack of it), and the resultant eternal consequences.

Jesus likens this terrible time of judgement to a shepherd who separates the herd into sheep and goats. But who are the sheep and who are the goats?

Some very specific criteria is used: how we responded to the needs of those who were hungry, without clothing and water, the rejected, alienated and lonely (the foreigner or refugee), those bound and imprisoned (mental illness, addiction).

Interestingly, Jesus makes no mention of membership of any particular church group or belief system or brand of theology. The only criteria Jesus underlines is how we treat one another, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Jesus goes as far as to say [vv 40, 45] that whatever we do (or don’t do) for even the most ‘undeserving’ of his flock, we do (or don’t do) for him. Such a difficult teaching about the true motive for loving service must challenge us to reconsider our attitudes to others and our response to those in need.



Matthew 25:31-46 [NRSV] Judgement of the Nations

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’