“Let me love them with Your love, let me reflect Jesus to them…”
I catch myself praying such prayers quite often – about my friends, family, church, patients, neighbors – I want to love with the love of Christ, to serve with His humility, and to touch with His healing. I image my love flowing from and because of Jesus, ministering in a way similar to how He ministered, His love pouring out of me. Like Paul prayed for the Philippians, I want to have the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant. Clearly, this is what we’re called to do, right?
Perhaps it is, but there is another image that Jesus gave, and it is the direct opposite of these images in my head:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“And the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” – Matthew 25
Do you see it?
Caring for the hungry, thirsty strangers, loving the naked, sick and imprisoned – we don’t do it as if we were Jesus, but as if they were Jesus.
This image haunts me. When I look into the eyes of my patient who is seeking disability for inappropriate reasons, or sobbing over losing their daughter to cancer, or frightened by chest pains, or struggling with emotional eating, it is far too easy to picture myself as a saviour, healing or teaching or setting things right. It is much, much harder to picture them as my Lord, hungry, sick, naked, imprisoned. I desperately need to rethink this godlike persona I try to project, to stop trying to be a heroic Jesus-figure in the world, and instead start seeking and serving Jesus in the lost, broken and hurting ones. Come, join me if you will, and let’s see what it does to our hearts and lives!