Five Questions for Christians

Seems like every true Christian should be able to answer most of these questions…

  • What is the name of a hungry person you recently fed?
  • What is the name of a thirsty person you recently gave a drink?
  • What is the name of an outcast or stranger you recently welcomed?
  • What is the name of a sick person (not in your family) you recently tended?
  • What is the name of a prisoner you recently visited in jail?

Immediately many of my friends who love to study the bible and learn the Greek root words of things will be outraged that I have set this as the standard for true Christianity rather than adherence to some doctrinal position like the “good church” they are a part of. The problem is, I didn’t set this standard, Jesus did. Let’s read what He says in Matthew 25 without explaining it away. What is the simple sense of this simple text?

[31] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. [32] Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [33] And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. [34] Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ [37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ [40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ [41] “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. [42] For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, [43] I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and  you did not visit me.’ [44] Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ [45] Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ [46] And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

You don’t need to go to seminary to understand what Jesus is saying. He is saying that 100% of the righteous people he will joyfully invite into the eternal kingdom of blessing will have done these things in His name.  Matthew Henry puts it this way “Good works done for God’s sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them.”

It’s easy to debate the main and clear point Jesus is making by arguing over who the “these” are or how many of the five things are necessary to meet Jesus’ standard. If your first inclination is to do this then I would be very concerned for the state of your soul. I don’t say that in a mean way, I’m just reading verses 45-46.

Genuine Christianity gave us orphanages, an end to the slave trade, disaster relief and mass care, medical care for the poor, workplace safety and all sorts of other kindness to the materially poor and socially outcast. Jesus Himself set this example showing earthly kindness to people who He knew would never believe on Him. These five questions, taken literally from the standard Jesus says He will use at the final judgment, are a great diagnostic for whether your theology is made worthwhile by getting to your hands and feet.

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Vandalism and the Mission of God

For those who don’t know us, we moved into a more disadvantaged neighborhood at the end of last year to plant a church. Over the years we’d become more convinced that evangelicals were basically a white, middle class church and we wanted to be a part of the solution to that problem.

We’re starting to see lots of results of choosing to live and set up a church gathering in this kind of neighborhood.  Most of it is very good with new relationships and opportunities to serve in a community that has many needs. Some other time I’ll share some of that but this time I want to talk about one of the “downside” moments, i.e. when we saw our church sign had been slashed.

I don’t know whether getting your church property vandalized counts as being persecuted for Christ’s sake or not. I suppose it might if the reason it happened was because we were Christians rather than because it was a convenient target for someone to get a random thrill. A few years ago I would have been really upset and surprised that someone would do such a thing.

At this point of my life, I’m actually surprised it doesn’t happen more often. As we’re working through the Gospel of Luke on Sundays and we see Jesus opposed at every turn by enemies who hated that He did good things and told the truth, I wonder why more of this kind of thing doesn’t happen to churches in the west. In fact, it does happen all the time to churches in other places where Christians take a stand against spiritual forces of darkness.

That’s not to say that there isn’t merit in living for Christ. Believers ought to cling to passages such as Gal 5:22-23 that says there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit or Titus 2:8 that indicated unbelievers who slander us are put to shame when people contrast their accusations with our actual lives. I’m just saying that Jesus bore more fruit of the Spirit and lived a more impeccable life than I ever will and they killed Him for it.

I think the best thing about getting a sign cut up is that it prepares me for worse things that probably will happen while we are here and forces me to run to my Father who doesn’t let anything come to me without his consent. I fully expect that as we gain ground in enemy territory that we will take more enemy fire and it grieves me that I’ve spent 25 years of life as a believer helping brothers and sisters heal more often from friendly fire than combat with the enemy.