Thursday, December 25, 2008

By Our Love

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ - Matthew 25:37-40

I once heard a story of a woman who was walking on a busy city street. As she passed by an alley she heard a sound coming from a box. She immediately knew the sound. Her heart was moved by the cries. As she opened the box, there he was. A small gray kitten abandoned by its mother. She picked up the kitten and snuggled it under her warm coat and took it home.

At home she fed it warm milk and tuna fish. The kitten fell asleep on her lap. Later on that night she placed it on her back porch in a little house and bed she’d made from a box and an old sweater.

During the night she woke to hear thunder, lightening and rain pouring down. She immediately ran to the back porch to retrieve the little kitten. But when she got there, the kitten was gone. She retrieved a flashlight and went out in the rain searching for the kitten. She searched for over an hour before coming in soaking wet and crying.

Not knowing what else to do, she called the local fire department. She wasn’t sure what they could do to help, but she’d heard stories of firemen rescuing cats from trees and thought they might offer advice. The fireman answered the phone and listened as she explained her kitten was missing.

His words cut through her heart like a knife as he told her she would have to wait. Why? He was busy finding housing for a homeless family he’d found living in an alley – the same alley where she’d found the kitten. While her compassion had been for the kitten, she’d ignored a mother and two children living only feet away in another box.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells His disciples that even if they offer a cup of water to a thirsty man, they are in effect offering it to Jesus. If they clothed those who needed clothing, it was the same as giving their clothes to Jesus. If they offered shelter to someone who had no home, it was the same as offering shelter to Jesus. But we often end our reading of the passage at verse 40. Why? Because we like to focus on the reward for doing good deeds - not the punishment for neglecting to do good. In verse 45 Jesus says to those who neglect to do good, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

As Christians, we are to be known by our love. The absence of love for each other is evidence of not being a Christian. 1 John 4:8 says “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We can claim to love others all day long, but what do our deeds say? Are we really loving one another? Are we tending to the needs of others? Are we seeing that those around us are fed, housed, cared for when they’re sick, or visited when they’re lonely?

This Christmas season I’d like to challenge my fellow Christians to show the love of God that lives within you. Show it to someone who desperately needs to know that God loves him or her. It could be as simple as giving a gift card to someone who needs groceries. Maybe you could shovel snow for the elderly or a call to see if they need anything while you’re at the grocery store. It could be a pot of homemade chicken soup to someone who’s sick. You could share an invitation to your family Christmas dinner to someone who has no family. It may be as simple as a phone call to someone who needs to know that they came across your mind today. In whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you, show the love of Christ this season. It’s the most precious gift you can give.