25 Ways to be the Hands of Jesus.
I was so looking forward to the summer. It was our first year with Asher where we didn’t have our summer theater to schedule around. My wife and I used to run a community theater, and that meant each summer we would be full of kids, costumes, props, staying up super late to create a set, and getting up crazy early to meet 90+ kids excited to get on stage. Parts of it were fun, much of it was exhausting.
We hosted two summer camp each year for seven years, and they would last from the beginning of July until the end of August. When my wife started the theater, Asher was three years old. At the time I am writing this, he is turning nine which means for the majority of his childhood, that little boy spent his summers in the theater. This year was the first year we were free to have a real summer filled with beach fun, long adventures, late nights, and memories made with my beautiful wife and my favorite kid.
Unfortunately, our first summer as a family wasn't what we dreamed it to be.
As summer began, so did the rains, the house projects, and eventually, it closed with Hurricane Florence bearing down on us. It was a wet, busy, and tiring summer, and while we spent a few days on the beach and at the pool, those moments were few and far between. Most of the summer we were stuck inside.
In those moments, I found myself thinking back to one particular show we did in theater camp with the kids, "Godspell." I loved watching Asher and his happy face as he nailed his lines and enjoyed his time on stage.
Godspell is an award-winning Broadway musical that was composed by Stephen Schwartz. It is a beautiful piece of art that focuses on the teachings of Christ during His time on earth, and the parables found in the Gospel of Matthew. This show was Asher's first theatrical performance and Erika and I were thrilled that he not only got to perform a full-length Broadway production but also got to act out many of Christ’s parables.
One of these parables was of the “Sheep and the Goats” found in Matthew 25:31-46. Asher was one of the goats, and gosh did he love it! If you aren't sure of the parable of "The Sheep and the Goats”, read it now. The rest of this article will make more sense!
I loved watching Asher during this moment in each show as he got to be a goat. He was hysterical to watch. His goofy face giving everything it had to show the feelings behind the words. It was this moment I kept returning to in my thoughts during this rainy summer.
Parables are simple allegories that hold true to a singular moral, but so powerful in their presentation. The Parables are for us, and the meanings of these short allegories continually resonate in my spirit.
Thanks to Asher and his award-winning performance as a "goat" (ok I’ll stop bragging about him), I was drawn to study one of the last canonical parables; The Sheep and the Goats.
The Sheep and The Goats
Found in the 25th chapter of Matthew, the parable is referencing the return of Christ to this world. Beginning in verse 31, the Son of Man returns to this world in His full glory and places Himself on the throne before all of mankind. It is here He separates those that He finds into two separate groups. He puts the first group (the sheep) to the side of His right hand and the second (the goats) to His left. Jesus then welcomes the sheep to the right into the Kingdom of heaven.
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’" Matthew 25:34-36 NKJV
Naturally, the sheep are confused. Their Savior never came to them asking for such things. But Jesus says to them "Assuredly, I say to you, since you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’" Matthew 25:40
At this point I can only imagine the goats waiting as Asher was, expectant to receive their gift. However, to their dismay, they were not given what had been given to the sheep, and they were cast into punishment. They had not done unto the least of the people and therefore had not done unto the Lord.
Now stay with me for a minute.
In reading this parable, I always thought the goats were "sinners" or "unbelievers." But upon closer reading, I found that the "goats" knew who Jesus was. I had always missed that fact. I always knew that the goats didn’t act in the manner that was required of them, but I guess I always supplemented that with the fact that they weren't Christians and therefore were a representation of non-believers. You guys, the goats KNEW HIM, and didn't let Him in! Let that sink in.
We often think that the more we work, the more we can earn our salvation. You guys, works are not the cause, but are instead the effect of salvation!
As Christians, we should work for something; to cast away this world. Our "work" should be to model our lives after and strive to become like Christ. In this effort, our Spirit strengthens, and we can begin to see its fruit. It is the Fruit of the Spirit that generates the acts that the "sheep" performed. They demonstrated love, joy, goodness, faith, and all of the other Fruits that are available to the people of God. These acts of goodness are the outpouring of the Spirit found within. And in those Christians (the "goats") that are sinful and selfish, the Fruit of the Spirit is not found.
Sadly in the world today, I believe that the "goats" outnumber the "sheep." I am hard pressed some days to find evidence of those Christians who have blossomed in the Fruit of the Spirit. Even in the aftermath of the natural disaster that hit us this summer, I have seen far more negative actions then I have seen positive.
Finding the Sheep in the middle of Goats
Hurricane Florence ravaged the coast of North Carolina, our town, our community, and our home. That is enough to make you angry, sad, and fearful, but the hearts of those wanting to capitalize on misfortune made it all so much worse.
Out-of-state companies flooded into town under the guise of helping only to turn around and attempt to gouge people out of their money in a time they needed help the most. Day after day we heard of people asked to pay 8, 9, or even 10 thousand dollars to remove downed trees from their yard. These out-of-town companies jumped on the need of our neighbors and tried to capitalize on their weakest moment; some succeeded.
Like the "goats," these companies walked under the guise of kindness, goodness, and love but their actions showed what was indeed lying in their heart.
While we are often tempted to focus on the "goats," there are still many "sheep" to be found. Many came to our aid in the days after Florence. Many people opened their doors and gave their time to help reconstruct the parts of the city we lost. In fact, we had a very close and personal example ourselves.
Long time friends of ours demonstrated God’s nature day in and day out with their care and generosity. Without a need for payment, they brought us food when we had none, help when we needed it, and joy when we lacked it. Every day their presence and displays of the Fruits of the Spirit lightened our burden and proved that the world still had some "sheep" willing to do what needed to be done to show God's love. (Jon and Sanae, we will be forever grateful.)
Though Asher loved to be the goat on stage, I am genuinely grateful to have a little sheep in our house. And I am even more thankful that he not only sees the examples of the Fruits of the Spirit in his mother but in our friends as well. In a world that looks less and less Biblical every day, it brings joy to my heart that sweet Asher has examples set around him that demonstrate the qualities of a "sheep."
A Question for You
Are you a sheep or a goat?
Do you help others only when convenient?
Do you take advantage of those who may be down and out?
Or do you allow the Fruit of the Spirit to flow freely to all in need?
Remember, the next time you are tempted to close the door on one in need ask yourself, “Would I close this door to Jesus if He came knocking?”
So today, I encourage you to be a "sheep." The world is full of too many "goats," we need the followers of Jesus to rise up and be a demonstration of Him in this earth.
Here are 20 practical ways that you can be a demonstration of the “sheep” in Matthew 25.