What I'm Reading Today: Matthew 25:31-46
There are lots of ways to characterize different types of Christian community these days. You could say some are "liberal" and some are "conservative"; some are "traditional", some are "contemporary" or "emergent"; some are "high church", some are "low church". The list of descriptors is seemingly endless.
Another way you could characterize churches is to describe them by where they place their emphasis. There are some faith communities, for instance, that their emphasis on their members having the right beliefs. These sorts of communities tend to emphasize a belief in things like the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc. Communities organized along these lines are said to emphasize orthodoxy (or right belief).
There is another branch of Christian community that emphasizes something besides right belief as foundational; they emphasize right action. By this, I mean they put the emphasis on people who profess a faith going out into the world and actually put those beliefs into action (i.e. help the poor, educate those in need of education, etc.). The term for emphasizing right action is orthopraxis.
Of course the issue of right belief or action isn't as cut and dried as I just made it sound. Most of our actions, for instance, either stem from (or are informed by) our beliefs. The difference between the two types of Christian community, though, is what they emphasize.
In today's reading, Jesus' makes it pretty clear on which side he leans – and it might surprise some of the folks who believe that an emphasis on right belief is the only way. For when Jesus talks about the process of separating individuals into two camps (the sheep vs. goats), it wasn't the individual's beliefs that were used in the discernment process. It was the individual's actions that were used.
In explaining to the sheep why they were welcomed with opened arms, Jesus said: "I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me." He didn't say, "I was hungry and you (thought about feeding) me, I was thirsty and you (thought about giving) me a drink, I was homeless and you (thought about giving) me a room, I was shivering and you (thought about giving) me clothes, I was sick and you (thought about stopping by) to visit, I was in prison and you (thought about coming) to me." Big difference!
On some levels, it would be so much easier to live in a world where only our professed beliefs mattered. It only takes seconds to say the right thing after all. In the world that Jesus points us toward, however, we don't have the luxury of resting on our professed beliefs. We are challenged to live out our beliefs.
My question for you to ponder today is this: "If someone were to watch you today from a distance and simply observe your actions, what would those actions suggest about your faith?"
Til next time …