31When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on his royal throne.32The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats.
33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created.35When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me,36and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.”
37Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink?38When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear39or visit you while you were sick or in jail?”
40The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”
41Then the king will say to those on his left, “Get away from me! You are under God's curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!42I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink.43I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me.”
44Then the people will ask, “Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?”
45The king will say to them, “Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.”
46Then Jesus said, “Those people will be punished for ever. But the ones who pleased God will have eternal life.”
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
Followers of Jesus ought to be obvious to everybody. Somewhere in recent years Christians have come to be known for the things we are against rather than what we are for. It is true that we are called to be salt and light and the principles of the kingdom of God will often put Christians in opposition to the principles that move the world. But we are also called to be the loving hands and feet of Jesus.
Jesus wraps up his discourse on end times with a parable that deals with this matter. He tells his disciples that the mark of being a true follower, of having come into relationship with him, is how we live out our faith. The Bible is clear about two things—salvation is a gift that is received, not earned (Galatians 2:8-10) and faith which is not expressed in loving acts is not faith at all (James 2:17).
In light of these truths, Jesus’ parable is clear. Those who truly have been born again—the sheep in this parable—live out their faith with deeds of practical compassion. These include feeding the hungry, offering a drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality, clothing those who need clothes, caring for the sick and visiting prisoners. Jesus says that we are, in fact, doing these things to him, and all who prove their faith is genuine through these compassionate acts will be commended and rewarded.
Those who say they belong to Christ through faith, but who do not prove that through compassionate acts are the goats in this parable. The words they will hear from Christ on judgment day are not words anyone wants to hear, particularly at that moment: “depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The good news is that it is not too late. We are blessed to be able to examine our own lives right now. What does our weekly calendar prove about our relationship to Jesus Christ? If everything we have scheduled is for us alone, we need to take time for a little spiritual self-examination. As we get our relationship with Jesus right, our priorities will change and our passion to love others as Jesus loves us will grow.
Lord Jesus, you make it very clear that how I love others is a clear sign about how I love you. Help me to be honest with myself and if it is not obvious to all by my love that I belong to you, draw me to that place of intimacy with you so that your love will naturally flow through me. In your name I pray. Amen.