Sheep or Goat?
The Good News of the Gospel: you and I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by the merit of our good works that can be tallied up! Our life’s not a balance sheet where we add up all the good and the bad to see if we come out on top. It is not a comparison chart where we measure ourselves up to others to see who has done more or less and therefore who is better.
We are saved by grace. Unconditional. Undeserved. Unlimited. Overflowing. Complete and total forgiveness of sin. Absolute welcome into the kingdom. Not based on what we have done but totally and completely because of what Christ has done: he died on the cross for our sins and rose again, giving us eternal life. That’s the Good News!
So why the reminder? Because our scripture lesson for today, if we’re not careful, can lead us to question our role in salvation.
It’s so easy to look at our lives and start checking off the boxes: Helped the hungry person? Check! Donated clothes to the Salvation Army? Check? Kind to a stranger? Check! Visited people in the hospital? Check! Brought a meal to my neighbor? Reached out to those in bondage? Check!
Or maybe we take one look at that list and say... well, I’m not so sure I’ve done any of those things! I’m in trouble!
Our Scripture Lesson challenges us to reflect on the great commandment and the great commission. What does it mean to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength? What does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves? What does it mean to go and make disciples of all nations? How do we do this? Why do we do this?
Listen: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again... We don’t obey God’s Word to earn favor with God. God’s favor is ours, by grace, thru faith in Jesus. We don’t love God or neighbor - or share the gospel - so that we can stand before our Creator one day and say, “Look at what I did!”
We love because he first loved us. We love because that’s the expression (the evidence) of new life, of being born again. Love is living out God’s grace, freely given.
The love that we show is an outflow of God’s grace... it’s a product of our salvation... and it’s best expressed in small things... intimate things. Like feeding the hungry, clothing (what’s more intimate than food and clothes?), visiting and sharing comfort with the hurting. These are all basic... foundational acts of sharing God’s grace: a grace we ourselves have received.
Which also means: such acts of service and love are within the ability of every one of us. We can do this. If you can share... if you can talk... or send a text... you can do this.
And the ministries mentioned here are examples, it’s not a complete list! There are as many needs as there are people in the world. Every person we meet, is to some degree, thirsting for a drop of love. Basic help for each person’s need is what Jesus celebrates here. Jesus rejected his disciples’ questions regarding “who’ll be the greatest” - and pointed them to little deeds carried out to glorify God.
“As you did it to one”. Surely one needy person isn’t all that important in a world of needy persons! Jesus says, think again... How could it be insignificant when we’re doing it unto Christ?
We never look into the face of anyone Jesus didn’t die for...
Of course, there’s a warning in these words from Jesus. As followers of Christ, the redeemed, those who’ve received the offer of new life... When we see a need... a true need... and we fail to offer our giftings, our service, our prayers, our abilities... we’ve failed, according to this Lesson, because we’ve failed Jesus.
Sheep and goats. There will come a time... a day that those who’ve honored their commitment to Christ will be rewarded, while those who haven’t will be separated out. But, that’s the problem... right?
No one is all sheep or all goat. Who here has ever given food, water, or clothes to someone in need, visited someone in the hospital or jail, welcomed a stranger? Raise your hand if you have. You are a sheep.
Who here has driven past the guy on the corner holding a sign that says, “Homeless and hungry,” or turned away from a stranger? Don’t raise your hand.
I’ve done both and you have, too. So are we sheep or goats? We are both. There are parts of our lives that are sheep-like and other parts that are goat-like.
And that realization, that awareness, that we’re both “sheep and goat” places us in a position to be humble as we “work out our salvation, with fear and trembling” - trusting that God’s grace is always sufficient... even when I wrestle with “goat” within.
We demonstrate our love of God through our relationships with others. It’s more than words... more than good thoughts, or wishful intentions. It requires action. It requires giving a little of ourselves as we live out our calling to be the “hands and feet” of Christ. It requires doing what we can to show God’s love... to others. For when we do... we’re doing it all, unto Christ himself. What a joy!
We will meet Jesus as we live-out his mercy. We will show Jesus to others as we offer his grace. Remember, these are the words of Jesus, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Live the grace of Jesus.