There is a good deal of parsing of Scripture these days declaring such things as “complementarian” relationships between men and women, what is and what is not an “abomination,” and whether freedom of religion trumps freedom of speech.
People of faith are at odds with one another over these distractions. Perhaps it’s time we who claim to be Christ followers listen more carefully to, well, Jesus.
At Operation Inasmuch, we have based our ministry on Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and the goats.
It is a parable of judgment. Verse 40 of that passage, in the New King James Version, uses the word “inasmuch” from which we get our name: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
That “vision” of the culmination of life, in which Jesus returns and determines who will be among the righteous (the sheep on the right) and the unrighteous (the goats on the left) is, in my estimation, a culmination of the commands Jesus laid out to his followers throughout the gospel account.
In his great teaching we familiarly call “the Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus laid out his vision of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
In chapter seven of Matthew’s Gospel, he sums it all up with this, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
That about sums it up! Look again at the parable from Matthew 25 and consider this: If you’re hungry, how would you want to be treated?
If we’re hungry, we want food. If we’re thirsty, we want water. If we’re a stranger, we would most likely want a place of welcome.
Jesus clearly indicated his criteria for judging our righteousness – the “rightness” of our relationship with him and with people – is by how well we treat others as we want to be treated. You see, that about sums it up.
As a man who desires to be treated with respect, equality, fairness and opportunity, why then is it so hard to imagine treating women in the same way I want to be treated?
If I go into a place of business that offers specific services and goods that I plan to buy, I’d like to be given the same opportunity all other patrons of the business are afforded and not rejected because of my difference. I expect freedom; should I not also extend freedom?
The world in which we find ourselves today is hungry for compassion; it is thirsty for fairness. It longs to be received with welcome and hospitality.
Many feel bare and exposed and need the cover of kindness and grace. Sickness and oppression are all around us and begs for care and attention.
Jesus replies to these needs with, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
He said elsewhere, “So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Indeed, that about sums it up.
John Daugherty is the Director of Operations with Operation Inasmuch, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee, equipping churches to serve their communities through compassion ministry.