Just Thinking…… They walk among us. They are here…. and now….. They make us uneasy. They are a problem. Sometimes they are invisible. Sometimes they are seen too much. Sometimes they make no sounds. Sometimes they are horribly noisy. They don’t fit in. They make messes. They are awkward. We want them to go away. They are…….. The Least of These.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
And that got me thinking about church: a place where my brothers and sisters in Christ come together. Who is the least of these in church?
Although being Christian, being a born again believer in Jesus is the glue that binds us into the concept of “church,” we are made up of many different minorities. For example, we have both men and women. We have the elderly, the boomers, the young parents, the teens, the kids, the babies. We have white, black, hispanic, middle eastern, and oriental. We have the bright and the unintellectual. We have those who are wealthy, those who are of average wealth, and the poor. We have those with healthy emotional and mental states, and those who do not have these. We have the educated and the uneducated. We have the computer literate and those who don’t own a computer. We have those who can sing on key, and those who make a joyful noise. We have some who can cook, and some who can’t. Some are in wheelchairs or use walkers or canes or crutches, and many who walk with no problem. We have those who can see well, and those with a sight handicap. Same with hearing. We have rural folks and town folks. We have the shy and the life of the party. This list could go on for many more pages, but you probably get the picture. Everyone fits into one minority or another. (And you probably understand by this point that I am not talking about one particular congregation; this describes churches everywhere. You may see yourself in this list.)
So with all this in mind, here’s the question:
Which of these shall we leave out of church?
- Shall we lower the lights for dramatic effect….. and leave out those with poor vision?
- Shall we have steps into the church…. and leave out those who can’t climb steps?
- Shall we send out all announcements and prayer requests via email….. and leave out those who don’t have computers?
- Shall we sing only higher pitched classical music….. and leave out those who can’t stretch to the higher notes?
- Shall we sing only the latest tunes….. and leave out those who yearn for hymns?
- Shall we only have church in one building….. and leave out the homebound and the ones in nursing homes?
- Shall we only have church at one time….. and leave out those who must work at their job during that time?
- Shall we read all Scripture from the King James…. and leave out those who struggle with this older language?
- Shall we read all Scripture from a contemporary version…. and leave out those who love the beauty and cadence of the older version?
- Shall we back up prayers with a musical backdrop….. and leave out those with a hearing handicap?
- Shall we place only the young mothers in the nursery….. or only the older women……and leave them out of worship?
- Shall we not even have a nursery…… and discourage all the young parents and leave the babies out of their first church experiences?
- Shall we put those who speak a different language…. or no language…. or a peculiar language of their own in the back out of sight….. or sit with them and leave our comfort zones?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d like to give a formula for perfection, but I can’t. All I know is that I need to actively search for the answers. I do wonder about preconceived notions. I ponder a seeming selfishness in wanting things to be “my way” without regard to the needs of others. I worry about those who seem to be invisible and silent, so no one sees them or pays attention to their needs. I worry about the church being blind and deaf. In an ideal, perfect world, what would the church look like? How would it function? Would the least of these be cared for? Would somehow each one fit into the church? Is there a place for every believer?
“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, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matt. 25:41-45)
The least of these are among us. They may not be the hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, but they are the overlooked and ignored in our churches. What shall we do to include them and nurture them?
Father….. Forgive me for the times that I did not pay attention to the least of these. Open my eyes to how I need to help others be fully within the church body. Give me direction and boldness and courage and wisdom to do Your will.
To God Be The Glory…..