Matthew 25: 37-40:
Then the righteous will answer him, saying 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (ESV)
These well-known words can inspire us to care for those undergoing hardship. But how deeply do we let these words permeate our souls?
Greg Paul has a street ministry in Toronto. In God in the Alley (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Shaw Books) 2004, he writes about how he experiences these words in his life. In caring for a man named Neil who was dying of AIDS, it occurred to Greg that he was not simply a Christian trying to help a sick person:
I had been seeing him as someone upon whom I could practice my own imitation of Christ, and had missed the presence right before me. I recognized that Neil was, at that moment, a physical representation to me of a vulnerable and dying Christ. Jesus was allowing me to clothe him, and look after him, by caring for his 'brother' (page 18).
In other words, this servant of God felt that he was not simply doing something for God, but, in a sense, to God.
This idea is radical and outrageous. Until, that is, we re-read the above scripture and realize that this is exactly what God is telling us.
Greg Paul explores this idea very thoroughly in his book. The end result may be, for the reader, a forever-changed perception of the homeless, the drug-addicted and the utterly broken people of our society. The reader may feel, moreover, that caring for the homeless is not merely a duty but a privilege.
Greg Paul's book is not entirely about 'doing.' He discusses two different disciplines: being Jesus and seeing Jesus:
Being Jesus requires that I choose to be actively present. Seeing him means that, paradoxically, in my being present, I must choose the stillness of being hidden-that is, rather than being focused on what I am doing, and seeking attention for it, I must be actively looking to see how Jesus is presenting himself in and through others (page 23).
Who would think that "being hidden" would be a part of this kind of ministry?
There are exciting challenges out there for us in the Christian life.