“He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
We have an uncanny ability to delude ourselves. Our sense of self-importance, or our ego, can easily prevent us from seeing ourselves and the situation we are actually in clearly. There is always a great danger that we read the Scriptures and, immediately, assume we are on the side of right or are ‘the saved’ because we identify as Christians.
We should not falsely rest assured that we belong to the saved and others, who we perceive as wrong or sinful, are damned. In a time when social media so easily allows us to label others as having to repent publicly or call people ‘unorthodox’ or ‘heretical’, we can easily gloat thinking we have a place amongst the sheep and ‘they’ are damned.
This sharp and cutting parable urges us to interrogate ourselves much more deeply than we generally want. It wants us to be uncomfortable. Our rigid thinking which harshly judges and demarcates between good and bad does not allow us even to consider that we too stand a chance of being amongst the goats.
The truth is that we have to face the mix which coexists in all of us. We don’t like to think like this, but we all have both sheep and goat tendencies. There are righteousness and wickedness in all of us.
What the Gospel offers us is the fact that the risen Christ returns, again and again, waiting to encounter us in the stranger, the needy, the ill or the imprisoned. And all these categories extend beyond just the physical. The conscious believer, the parable suggests, does not waste time looking for opportunities to call others out or condemn them with harsh judgements because they are foreigners or because of their neediness, illness or imprisonment.
Instead, the conscious believer is alert and vigilant looking for opportunities to encounter Christ in the people around them, no matter who they are, what they have done or failed to do.
Does this parable make you uncomfortable? Do you live with the false surety that you are saved, but certain people you know you assume are not? What might God be saying to you today about that?