May 20, 2013

Sheep and Goats

Consider these words from Jesus:

When the Messiah returns in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, he will sit upon the throne of his heavenly glory. Before him will be gathered all nations; and he will separate them, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep he will set on his right hand, and the goats on his left.

Then the King of Heaven will say to those on his right: “Come, blessed by my Father; enter into the inheritance of the kingdom, prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you offered me food. I was thirsty, and you brought me cold water to drink. I was without home, and you invited me in. I was without clothes, and you clothed me. I was ill, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”

Then the righteous will answer in amazement: “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you to drink? When did we shelter or clothe you? Did we ever care for you when you were ill, or visit you in prison?”

The King will reply: “Truly, inasmuch as you have done such things for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done the same for me.”

To the ones on his left, the King will say: “Depart from me! For I was hungry, and you gave me no food. I was thirsty, and you offered me nothing to drink. I was without home, and you turned me away. I was naked, and you gave me no clothes. I was sick, yet you didn’t care for me. I was in prison, but you didn’t visit me.”

These will protest: “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or homeless, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and fail to comfort you?”

The King will answer: “Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have failed to do these things for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have failed to do them for me.”

Those on the left will be sent away into eternal darkness, but the righteous will be ushered into the kingdom of life.“

Years ago, while visiting the county fair, I was persuaded to get into the goat raising business. We bought a herd of three does, a ram and six "kids”. Presumably we could make money by raising and selling the herd. It seemed like a reasonable proposition for a home based business for our “kids”. The reality is that it was a disaster. My most painful memory is discovering the goats had destroyed the new peach tree we’d planted for Mother’s Day! We had four acres of vegetation they could choose from but, no, they HAD TO EAT THE PEACH TREE!

We’ve never raised sheep but I do know this about them: It is in their nature to produce something that benefits others. The wool they provide is born out of the life in them.

A pundit recently opined that America is quickly being reduced from a nation united to a variety of opposing tribal units. The two basic tribes are represented by the “Tea Party” and the “Occupiers”. Both groups are adamantly certain their view of America is the “right” one and so they show up in mass demonstrations to “voice” their opinions. Except for the costumes, each group’s make-up of individuals is reflective of the other. Much like sheep and goats. The difference has to be in their nature. The most telling difference, to me, is in the evidence left at the sites of their demonstrations: Occupiers typically leave a mess, tea partiers typically leave the place better than they find it.

One thing struck me in this teaching of Jesus: he will judge and separate the nations. There is, of course, a time when individuals will have their lives evaluated with resultant excoriation or validation. But He reveals here a time when the nations will be judged. Those nations whose basic nature leads them to produce life-giving benefits to others, who leave the place better than they find it, will be on the right side of God’s work of righteousness in history. Those nations whose nature produces destruction are on the wrong side.

Beware fundamental transformation. Resist we must!

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