Last night at the CCP we were talking about the nature of serving God and of the person who serves God when an interesting contemplation came up.
In the passage about the end of the world, in Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells those on His right side, “I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me”.
I find this image quite beautiful. You can almost imagine the surprised expressions on the faces of these people. “When did we do these things for You?” they ask honestly. (It would have been no good just being quiet and hoping He would not notice that this was a case of mistaken identity!) They couldn’t remember ever seeing Jesus and doing something for Him. Perhaps they couldn’t even remember doing those things for “the least of His brethren”. The reason for this apparent amnesia is that they did these services without even thinking about it. Do you remember what you had for dinner last Tuesday? Unless you’re some sort of obsessive gastrophile, the answer is probably ‘no’. Eating is such a normal, basic part of life. For these people, helping others is just as normal and basic in their life. It is something they did without even thinking about it – it just came naturally.
That’s what it takes to get to Heaven.
But that’s not the end of the story. Think about those things that Jesus ‘was’ when they served Him. Sound familiar? In fact, they are all the things we ARE, spiritually speaking. Spiritually, we are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison:
Hunger: we ache for the empty hole in our lives to be filled with the love and the purpose that God gives.
Thirst: we are parched with yearning for the sweet cool living water of the Word of God, the Truth that satisfies.
A Stranger: we are strangers in this world, lost, without a place to rest, not belonging, trying to find our way home.
Naked: our sins leave us exposed before God’s penetrating gaze, and like Adam and Eve before us, we feel the shame that sin brings, and need Him to clothe us with His mercy and forgiveness.
Sick: our thoughts are those of a fevered mind, infected with the plague of worldliness and selfishness, desperately in need of healing and comfort.
Prisoner: we have allowed ourselves to be taken captive by the merciless enemy, the devil, who enchains us cruelly – who will set us free?
So you see, it was not our service for Him that was really important in this whole exercise, but His for us! He saw that we needed all those things, and desperately. He came to us, and did all those things, or at least, He offered to, if only we would accept. And those of us who accepted were so changed that they couldn’t help doing the same things back to others. Much like a little child whose parents always say ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ to her at home, so she goes to school and says ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ to her teachers and fellows.
The key, if you trace the story back, was when the human soul accepts the service offered by Jesus, accepts His feeding, giving drink, clothing etc.
It’s that simple.
And it’s that hard. Do you accept Jesus’ service each day? Do you choose to come before Him with your hunger and thirst and take from His hand His life-giving spiritual nourishment?
When I was little, we got a pet cat simply by feeding a stray for a few days on the back verandah. It decided to adopt us and make our house its home. So devoted was it that we actually ended up getting three generations of cats, and only broke the relationship when we moved house. The person who gets used to coming to Jesus every day (if not every minute) soon also may choose to make His House his home. He becomes part of His family, and remains with Him to the end of his days. Does this describe you?
We started by talking about serving others. We ended by finding that it is we who are in need of service from Christ. If you do not feel that you have this kind of relationship with Him, don’t just sit there … do something about it!