This may come as a surprise to some of the political pundits out there, but Jesus had no political agenda or ambition. He was so popular, that at one point some of His followers came and tried to "take him by force, to make him a king," and he evaded their efforts and went off to be alone (John 6:15).
But interestingly, Jesus did have a lot to say about some of our most prominent political issues today -- welfare, immigration and health care, as well as treatment of prisoners.
Not only did He have a strong opinion about these, He clearly said that our actions on these issues determine our future in eternity. Matthew 25:31-46 is the text. The words are in red. Jesus is speaking.
He says when He returns to earth, He will "sit on His glorious throne" (v. 31); He will separate the nations into "sheep" and "goats" and invite only the "sheep" into His kingdom (v. 32-34). Here are the criteria He will use to determine whether we are sheep or goats:
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"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me somethingto drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison,and you came to Me"(v. 35-36.).
In Mark 16:16-18 (words in red; Jesus speaking), He also tells us we are to heal the sick and "cast out demons" if we are His disciples. Wow.
Well, that's going to cost a lot of money, right? Taking care of the poor, providing medical and mental health care for all, setting up feeding and clothing programs, providing immigration reform and perhaps taking another look at how we warehouse prisoners?
Surely Jesus didn't mean we're supposed to do that for everyone. Just the deserving who are down on their luck, and who believe as we do, right? Just the really smart immigrants who will contribute to our economy, right? Just the political prisoners, right? People like Jesus.
Who are we supposed to help this way? "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40).
Conversely, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me" (v.45).
Yikes, we're supposed to consider the needs of "the least of these?" Those who can't help themselves?
Those who will become a "burden" on our economy? Those who are out of work, collecting unemployment and can't pay taxes into the system?
I'm afraid so. The text doesn't have any provisos added in. Jesus was quite clear on this issue -- and quite firm as to what happens to the goats who do not care for their citizens and "strangers" alike (see Matthew 24:46).
Jesus especially cared about the "least of these," and He said He wants those who claim to be is disciples to do the same. Right now we're so involved in the politics of our election year that we seem to have forgotten that the people of a nation matter more than anything else to Christ.
They matter more than politics or profits. Just asin a loving family, each member is cared for and nurtured regardless of their ability to contribute to the economy of thefamily, perhaps if wecould consider ourselves to be one very largefamily, we might better embrace Christ's perspective.
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father's House, 7215 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton. For more information, visit www.myfathershouseinc.com.