Those of you who follow our midweek Bible studies on the Gospel of John and on Revelation, will recognize the name G.K. Beale. He is my favorite theologian and his books have helped me tremendously in my understanding and study of the Bible. This link is to a series of lectures he has given on the big story of the Bible and how the Bible progressively tells this story from Eden lost to Eden regained in the New Heavens and Earth.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46)
The Scripture virtually applies itself, right? Think about it. How many of those adjectives fit the Christian who is being terrorized by an abuser? –
- Stranger (isolated by her abuser)
- Naked (another sign of economic oppression)
- Sick (most victims suffer from poor health)
- In prison (abuse is a prison, and the legal abuse so often effected by the abuser through the courts is a kind of prison)
Who is it that Jesus has a beef with in this Scripture? Answer: “Christians” who blew off such a person’s needs. Notice carefully (read the entire passage to see this more clearly) that Jesus is saying that the acid test that discerns a sheep from a goat is how a person treats one of Christ’s true people when they are in need or distress. This passage is not about the typical social ministries churches so often carry out and even boast of (prison ministries, feeding the poor, etc). Those are actually easy things to do and they earn society’s praise. No. Jesus is speaking here of true Christians who are oppressed for being Christians and of how a person who claims to be a Christian responds to them.
This Scripture would indicate that there are lots and lots and lots of pastors and church leaders and church members who CLAIM to be followers of Jesus Christ but who, indeed, are not. How do we know? Because the typical response of churches to abuse victims is… well, you all know the answer, don’t you?
And therefore, there are many people today who claim the name of Jesus Christ for themselves who ought to be doing some serious soul-searching about the reality of their professed salvation. After all, they are flunking the very test our Lord has set out here. Pretty sobering, huh?