It Doesn't Matter, Until It Matters
44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ - Matthew 25:44-45
As a kid growing up, I remember Sally Struthers coming on the television, with pictures of starving children from Ethiopia and other African countries, asking for help for the Christian Children’s fund. As a kid, it was one of my first memories of someone speaking out trying to help those with no voice. As a kid, I can remember my stomach turning as I saw the flies fly around the starving children, who just laid there as they were too weak to move. Despite the pit in my stomach, those lives didn’t affect my daily life, so I would get up from the couch and change the channel and go on with my day.
Since hearing those pleas to “help the children.” I have seen lots of “pleas” and “causes” in my life. In the 80’s and early 90’s, I remember the A.I.D.S. epidemic. In 1991, I remember watching the Rodney King beating live on Television. I remember a boy by the name of Michael Cane. You might not remember his name, but he was the 19-year-old boy who was in Singapore with his dad when he was caught spray painting a building. The punishment for his actions, to be caned four times. Despite his guilt, America went to arms.
When I was a kid, it seemed like there were just one or two causes. Today it seems like there are causes everywhere. From ads reminding us to help serve the homeless after the holidays to adopting a pet campaigns. There are the formal movements like “#blacklives matter” and “#MeToo,” as well as less formal concerns like the opioid and suicide epidemics that are facing our country.
As a kid, it was hard to see how a child's life in Africa affects me, so I would see those ads and go about living my life. With Michael Cane, I remember thinking; "he was dumb enough to get caught graffitiing, he should live with his punishment." In 1991, I was in middle school, but remember thinking it was weird that the only black kid in my all-white school wasn’t there the day after the Rodney King beating. I mean it happened on the other side of the country, in L.A. it doesn't affect my life in Indiana, so did it really matter?
As I got older, I couldn’t avoid the fact that the things I didn’t think mattered in my life, really mattered. A.I.D.S was someone else’s problem until my uncle was diagnosed with it in the late 80’s, a disease that would eventually take his life. Then the A.I.D.S. epidemic mattered to my family. When kids I went to school with my entire life would say racial slurs in front of our black friend, and then say, “Well he doesn’t count, he is one of us.” it mattered. I have never done drugs or thought about doing them, but when a 20-year-old former student, who lived with my family for a while, overdoses from drugs, I now have an opioid problem. I am not a female, but I have been married to one for almost 15 years, and I have had the blessing of raising one for the last eight years, and I have had countless girls go through my youth programs over the years. I can tell you that #MeToo and date rape is something that is very real, not because I have experienced it but because I have heard the stories of victims far too often.
In the parable of the sheep and goats found in Matthew 25, both groups, those who are sheep and those who are goats, are surprised as Jesus divides them out. Both sides ask the same question, “when did I see you...fill in the blank?” The difference is in Jesus’s response to one he says, “‘Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these, you did it to me” vs. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Those who were cast out were not the ones causing the suffering in the lives of others. However, they also weren’t doing anything to help those who were suffering. The poor, imprisoned, lame, and blind didn’t seem to matter to them because they were not in those groups. In fact, they probably didn’t know anyone who fit those categories either because if they did, they probably would have cared.
It is said, that “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” We can’t let evil triumph in our world. The world does a great job of separating us into groups and classes, does and does nots. I know that we are all different, as God has created each one of us unique, but Paul tells us that although different we are one in Jesus Christ.
Our identity rests in Christ and should not separate “us” from “them.” Instead, it should unite us together as one, into the body of Christ. If we call ourselves Christians, if we bear that name, we should also bear each other's burdens. We should take care of each other, watch over each other, and love each other. We should help those who we can help, not just those we like or who "deserve" help but all those whom we can help. Christ didn't say wait until something bad happens in our life before we decide to start helping others, or make a stand, or to give a voice for the least of these. Jesus said when you do it for the least of these, we do it to Christ.