I am not hungry, thirsty, or naked. I live my life knowing I can put food on the table, drink clean water, and keep my family clothed for any occasion. I am not a stranger. Even if I am unknown to a group of people, I know the language and understand the customs of our culture which allows me to fit right in. I am not sick or in prison. I do not live confined by physical or mental pain and I am not living at the mercy of another’s authority over me. I do not fit in to one of the groups of people Jesus calls upon us to care for.
In recent weeks I have been reflecting on other groups of people that I am not. I am not a police officer who has to make life and death split second decisions. I am not a young black man who gets pulled over, and over, and over while driving. My parents didn't need to teach me the “right way to get pulled over” because they didn't fear I would make it home due to the color of my skin. I am not living in poverty and I don’t have to chose between a barely sustaining minimum wage job or doing something more creative, possibly illegal, to provide food, clothes, and shelter for my family.
I am not a Muslim adhering to a faith of Peace who must defend my traditions every time a radical hate filled terrorist names my faith as their cause. I also do not fear for my safety when others don’t believe me when I tell them the radicals do not speak for me. I am not a refugee fleeing the civil war and famine in the land of my birth. I have not left everything behind with the hope I’ll find someplace safer for my family even though I know it is a long shot.
Though I mourn with the nation during these difficult times, I am not attending the funeral of a loved one lost to senseless and terrible violence. I pray for those affected by police shootings; I pray for those affected by terrorism in Florida, France, Iraq, and Turkey; I pray for the law enforcement community who answer the call to protect and serve, even at the cost of their own lives.
I am not any of the least theses, and acknowledging that is the first step in answering Jesus’ call to care for one another. When we acknowledge the people who are frightened, hungry, angry, disheartened we begin to see their stories are just as real as our own even when the stories seem so foreign to our sense of the world. Caring for the least of these is saying, “I hear you, I believe you, and I want to help you.” It is admitting that we need to change the way we are so that the world might be renewed in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
I may not be a (fill in the blank), but I am a Christian. As Christians we live to follow Jesus command to love our neighbor, the one who is culturally, religiously, socially, economically, and political different then ourselves. It is easy to care for those who look think, act, believe, and live similarly to us because we can see ourselves reflected in their eyes. It is much harder to care for those who are radically different than ourselves, but that is exactly what Jesus needs us to do.
God transforms us, heals us, and reconciles us through Jesus providing hope for the future and for now. We are the answer. We are called to to care for the least of these in our words and deeds and through the mission of our church. We are called to speak out for justice with our political vote. We are called to listen to the stories of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, the oppressed, the angry, and the frightened, and respond to them by using our voice to help the world see God in the midst of all the madness. With God’s help we can make room for everyone in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Rev. Andrew Black