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Keeping Up Appearances is the Opposite of Jesus and the Least of These

If you read the Bible, you will see that God cares for what happens to the widow, the poor, the orphan, and those who cannot care for themselves (and do not be deceived: some have recently absconded with this to say the “marginalized” to include people in an agenda that is clearly not God’s intent, but that’s a different story for a different day). God is a God of Justice who wishes to see equity and humanity using His image to show His love for them (again, beware of those who use this scriptural reference for political agendas).

Jesus’ critics, as we see in the Gospels, were offended, not only by what He taught, but who He gathered around Himself. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, the lame, blind, poor and pitiful. The religious of Jesus’ day were all about keeping up appearances, having the form of godliness by their outward actions and cleanliness, but, as Jesus said of them, they were “white washed tombs.” They were adorned on the outside, but inside they were dead. Had they read the scriptures in detail, they would have seen they were doing exactly what Israel of the Old Testament had done: they were denying justice, they were not showing mercy to the poor and downtrodden, they were blocking access to God to all but those who they deemed worthy. Jesus sought sinners, the crippled, the blind, the lame, the downtrodden and touched them, healing them, and charging them to “go and sin no more.”

I say all this to say we have not learned our lessons, and can often be found guilty of trying to make our churches (not the little “c”) clean places to go and worship, but showing no grace and mercy to people who aren’t on the same level we are (and note I say “we,” for I have been guilty, forgive me, Lord!). The truth is grace is messy. The truth is Jesus wants “those people” to become a part of His Church, but it requires us to be like Jesus and the Apostles, who taught, trained, ate with, and were among the least of these! God does not give leave to sin, nor does He approve of any of it, but He calls sinners to repentance, and when someone is saved and born again, it requires us to teach and train, which also requires patience on our part (Jesus is patient with us, praise His name!). We’re not called to look the part of Jesus’ followers, but to follow His lead, and the lead of those godly examples found in the scriptures. Love the least of these. Be patient with them, feed them, lead them, and do all possible to get them to Jesus. This is where we inherit the Kingdom made for us from before the foundation of the world and store treasures in heaven.

Matthew 25:31-40

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 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. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’

James 5:7-12

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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