Difficult Scriptures. Matthew 25:31-46.

The Sheep and the Goats.

I have always found this parable really hard:

When I used to read it as Sunday School it was hard because in my middle class childhood I was really unlikely to come across anyone who needed food or clothes, or even anyone who needed visiting in prison.
Nowadays the dilemma is that I do meet people in need, and I don't know what the balance is between loving people as Jesus would and plainly getting ripped off.

I know very well that someone with a drug habit will do anything to feed that habit. I know that we can easily fill up our meal times with people who just want a free dinner, and our community houses with people who just need a bed, but I am sure we are not meant to be social services to people.

James said faith without works is dead, and quite rightly we cannot ignore our social responsibilities, but works without faith is maybe even more dead. I am sure Jesus does not want a pious or patronising "doing good" that does not actually care about people as people.
In our Jesus Centres we are able to help people in a way we cannot in our homes, and the vision is to make sure the whole thing is firmly based on Jesus. But I don't think it is good enough for me to say "I belong to a church that does these things" because I don't do any shifts at the Jesus Centre anyway!

Going back to not being able to help everyone who comes to the door...There is this scripture I could quote to try to salve my conscience "pearls before swine" BUT I don't find Jesus putting in a clause "only help those who deserve it" or "only give practical help to those who also want to enter the kingdom of God"

So..... where does my conscience settle on this one?

It is hard to apply "whatever you did to the least of these you did unto me" to someone who is behaving in a way that Jesus never would.I mean, however hungry or dirty he was, I am sure Jesus did not threaten to smash your windows in if you crossed his will or nick people's bags while they were eating.

Maybe some of the answer is seeing people as individuals and not as a collective group of "alkies" "junkies", "needy people" or just "them" that we can't trust. Maybe I need to be ready to love the next person who comes along and not hold the sins of "the others" against them. To be "wise as serpents but innocent as doves"

In Acts Peter was struggling with the issue of what to do with Non-Jews who were finding faith in Jesus. I think what he is saying here is that the gospel is available without limit to all who want it. So our love should be available without limit. Whatever compassion we are able to show, it is the love of Jesus working through us. But if people reject Jesus in us, I suppose there is nothing more we can do.

The bottom line is that, although anyone is welcome, Jesus is really the only thing we have to offer. But.... so long as my conscience is still struggling to find love for the person stood in front of me I am still scared of going to hell with the goats.