I have a challenge for those who would damn the church in their love for social justice. Conflict resolution always requires a paradigm shift. I cannot remove my tension, resentment and disappointment without thinking in a new way about you and I. This would be a shift for those who treat their co-workers and team with disdain and look down on the church continually.

Most of our Christian faith based charities and mission organizations are very familiar with Jesus’ words about taking care of the ‘least of these’. We quickly find our reason for feeding, clothing, comforting, advocacy, etc., in the idea that we are caring for people as if caring for Jesus.

We look at the unreached, unchurched and least advantaged members of society and see them not as peripheral, but destined to be central in the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 25:
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Andy Horvath raises an interesting question, though…

Many of us readily assume that “the least of these” refers to the poor and marginalized. But are those who Jesus is really talking about? That question might seem trivial, but its importance can hardly be overstated. After all, Jesus ties our eternal destiny to how we treat “the least of these brothers of mine.” [1]

Who are these brothers of mine? Who else in Matthew’s history went hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and faced imprisonment? It was his very own disciples. Jesus sent his crew out to the lost sheep of Israel with intentional vulnerability so that they could demonstrate the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 10:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 

In their lack of personal resource, they would learn to not see themselves as being better than the people they were reaching. They would realize that the Kingdom of God has reciprocity. Those who welcome the poor receive the Kingdom privilege.

If Jesus is quite concerned about how we treat his disciples, this interpretation tells us that how we care for each other is just as (or sometimes more) important than how we treat the poor and marginalized.