The Least of These: Who Are YOURS?

This Sunday I'm giving a sermon (first time at our current church) on "The Least of These" from Matthew 25.

When we talk about “The Least of These,” what do you normally think of? Who are “the least?” as identified in Scripture? For a long time, I tended to think of the homeless. I visualize Jesus feeding 5,000 and loving children! But who doesn’t have compassion for children? For the poor? If you don’t, at least you’re probably smart enough to fake it, right?

But as a struggling narcissist, homeless people aren’t just easy for
me to love; because of the social capital placed on philanthropy, homeless people are socially profitable to love. Caring for the homeless, I'll look like a really good person! I'll feel like a really good person!

Jesus showed kindness to lepers, tax collectors, the crippled, the blind, beggars, Samaritans, women, even a Roman Centurion. It was the sort of compassion that got him killed. Jesus loved the wrong sorts of people. So there’s a risk involved in caring for the “Least of These.”

So who puts you at risk? What sorts of people compromise your safety, if you loved them? Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' And then, to the goats, Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

There are still people I am struggling to love. I have friends who have hurt me. I have family members who have betrayed me. And for all the years it took me to begin moving beyond my fundamentalism, now I’m trying to figure out how to love and care for my fellow Christians who represent all of the angry, judgmental things I used to be... And maybe still am... And still judge them for. These are the kinds of relationships I can’t avoid thinking about when I read the words in Matthew 25, because these are the people and groups I now have the hardest time loving. They’re the ones I am most at risk of being wounded by. In some instances, they’re the ones I’m most at risk of being judged for loving.


Who do you struggle to love?

7 comments:

Existential Punk said...

Fundies like Pat Robertson and Rick Warren, many Republicans, those who speak hate, are unloving and speak injustice towards me and other LGBTQ peeps. GW Bush and Cheney.

Al said...

Thanks, Peter, for helping me see who my 'least of these' includes. It truly needs to be 'my' personal definition. Yeah, it will likely compromise my safety/reputation with those around me. And I'm not sure I am totally ready for that yet--but it is already in motion.
I agree, it is pretty easy to be the Pharisee regarding helping the homeless--making sure other people know what I do, perhaps even trying to lay a nice guilt trip on them for not being as 'committed' as I am. But if I am doing it for the brownie points, to be seen by people around me, I'm not really doing it for Christ.
Lots of food for deep thought.
Be blessed as you lay this on the congregation.

Broken follower... said...

People I have a hard time loving are those who treat me "poorly". People with little patience, no manners, no acceptance...

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth putting energy into those who are hard to love... I'm finding it hard to balance loving them, and continuing to love those whom I already love who LOVE ME BACK... Still trying, hopefully with get there one day...

I liked this post. I wrote one about "Those who are the hardest to love need it the most" and it's something I've been trying to work on for some time now... There are no "giddy, happy" feelings after trying to love them like there is when you feed a homeless man (which I still feel is something I should work on... the homeless need love too. :P )

Peter said...

Broken, thanks for your transparency here. It IS hard. And I would say, if you can't love someone in a healthy way at a certain time, the first priority should be to get healthy. We have to take care of and nurture ourselves, too. In fact, some folks are probably their OWN "Least of These."

A woman who has been beaten by abusive men should not be expected to engage abusive men, simply because they are hard for her to love.

But in general, most of us have prejudices and comfort zones that need stretching and overcoming. That's the sort of difficult love I'm talking about...

Brent said...

Its definitely hard to show love when your hurting.

I know God uses Pat and his son but man... they presents themselves as such dou...(least of these)bags ;) but I don't hate them for it.

Sounds like a good sermon.

Gavin said...

I recognize bin Laden, Robertson, and the Couch Jumper. Who's the guy in the upper right?

Peter J Walker said...

Ha! Gavin, that's funny, no one's ever asked me that. I don't think I ever even paid attention. I have NO idea!! Scary. Google Images leads to hasty decisions...

Popular Posts