Sunday, February 5, 2017

Defender of the Weak

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.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 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 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.44 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?’ 45 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.46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46

As the King of all, Jesus does not identify Himself with the strongest, but He identifies Himself with the weakest.  This truth is stunning and yet relieving at the same time.  The oppressed may find refuge in Jesus in this way.  People who do not have any power may come to Jesus for shelter.  People who have no voice may come to Jesus and He will be their advocate.  People who are persecuted may come to Jesus for comfort.  And people who are unjustly treated may come to Jesus as He is ready to defend them.  Jesus is the defender of the weak.  The law of the kingdom of heaven is that the strong help the weak.  Contrary to the law of the world in which the strong oppress the weak.  The law of the world dictates that the strong have no responsibility to care for the weak.  In this world, the weak live and die by themselves.  The strong are just standing by watching.  When the weak plead for mercy asking for help, the strong sneer at them and bark: “It’s your own fault for not getting stronger!”  So the weak die helpless.

Two opposite mentalities are in full view.  The kingdom of heaven has a certain principle, “defend the weak” kind of mentality.  The kingdom of the world has a different principle, “support the strong” kind of mentality.  So in the kingdom of the world, the strong got stronger and the wealthy got wealthier, whereas the weak got weaker and the poor got poorer.  The hungry will starve and eventually die of starvation.  The thirsty will have no water to quench their thirst and eventually die of lack of water.  The stranger left stranded and isolated and eventually die as alien.  The naked are left without clothes and eventually die of shame.  The sick are abandoned and eventually wither away without care.  The people imprisoned rot in jail and eventually die wanting compassion and forgiveness.  But in the kingdom of heaven, the strong take care of the weak and the wealthy share with the poor, so all may live together properly.  The hungry will have something to eat because the have share their food with them so they will not die of hunger.  The thirsty will drink because those who have plenty bring water to them to drink so they will not die of thirst.  The stranger are welcome into the homes of the people and so they become family.  The naked are provided clothes so they may preserve their dignity.  The sick are taken care off because the healthy lend their strength to make sure they become healthy again so they may be healed.  Those imprisoned will have visitors to accompany them with compassion and be offered forgiveness so their life may be reconciled.  The kingdom of heaven is going to the opposite direction of the kingdom of the world.  Jesus the King of all is the King of the kingdom of heaven.  And the kingdom of heaven will remain forever whereas the kingdom of the world will be destroyed once and for all.

Jesus is the defender of the weak, the oppressed, the persecuted.  And He does it with faithfulness to the law of God.  He does it as he is upholding righteousness and justice.  Contrary to many would think, Jesus is not bending the law or corrupting justice or throwing away the word of God in order to care for the weak.  Jesus obeys the law as He is defending the persecuted.  Jesus is not like Robin Hood who robs the rich so that He could give money to the poor.  Instead, He gives example of what the wealthy, the powerful, and the strong are supposed to do for the oppressed.  The Day of Judgment cannot be negotiated.  It will come no matter what.  But before that day comes, there is opportunity to do good.  Because like Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11a).  It’s not like the poor is rare.  And so opportunities to help the oppressed and to defend the weak surround us daily.  At the same time, this means that we have no excuse to not defend the weak or help the oppressed.  The goats try to make excuses in front of the King of all.  They argue that they would attend to Jesus if He would show Himself.  But they do not realize that Jesus identifies Himself with the weak.  The plain truth that they always ignore from time to time.  They have no desire to help the persecuted.  They have no desire to care for the oppressed.  They have no desire to defend the weak.  Because they are worldly.  And the law of the world dictates that the weak should remain weak while the strong enjoys the pleasure they have without the need to share it with anyone.

It is amazing to learn that the most powerful being in the universe, the King of all, Jesus Christ, did not choose to be born in the world with the physical strength of Samson, with the military might of David, with the kingly charisma of Solomon, with the great influence of Moses that instills fear to all kings of the earth, or with the fiery prophetic demonstration of Elijah.  He chose to be born in the lowliest place, in the place fitting only for animals, and in a manger He was laid, even though a palace was available.  He grew up not as someone who was admired by the world.  Isaiah 53:2-3 bears witness:

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows  and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus did not complain when He, the most beautiful of all, was born into the world as someone whom people would not even wish to look at Him.  Many people in the world today would not stand their own appearance.  But Jesus, the fairest in heaven and earth, never complained about His appearance even though He had no physical beauty acceptable to the world.  Jesus was born as a common man, suffered poverty, marginalized for His love for truth, scorned for His identifying Himself with the weak, robbed of His rights by the most prestigious court system in the world, accused falsely by the highest religious system in Israel, and killed on the cross for absolutely no reason other than the governor desired to please the crowd.  Even through all the unjust treatment and persecution, the King of all continued to stand with the weak.

            There is no excuse because Jesus is the face of the weak.  Whatever we do to the weak we do to Jesus.  Whatever we do on earth is counted in heaven.  Whatever we do toward the weak is considered being done to Jesus Himself.  Not doing anything for the weak is already doing something.  If we leave the weak in their weak state even though we have the means to help them, it is a contribution to condemn them in their miserable life.  Doing nothing for the weak even though we can is considered an offense to the Lord.  How much more if we purposefully do evil to them, oppressing them knowing full well that we would gain advantage by doing so, or persecuting them in order to crush them so we may preserve our way of life.  The judgment of the King of all will shut all mouths.  The wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire.  His final decision can’t be overthrown.  His ruling can’t be cancelled or negotiated.

            However, I must remind all of you not to twist the truth for the sake of defending the weak.  Like I said earlier, Jesus did not bend the law in order to defend the weak.  Jesus never disobeyed His Father for the sake of helping the oppressed.  Instead, Jesus defended the weak in all respectful and honoring way to the Father.  Sinful humans have the tendency to create their own god, or to force God to fit into their tiny little box.  And when God can’t fit the box, they get rid of Him.  The case of LGBT for example, is a case to disobey God in order to pity the LGBT people, whom they consider to be weak.  It is not wrong that for a time people consider LGBT people as the weak.  History taught us that in the past the LGBT people were persecuted and oppressed tremendously.  However, twisting the word of God for the sake of defending them is also not warranted.  The word of God stands that homosexual tendency and practice is sin just like the tendency to commit adultery and its practice is also sin.  The tendency to steal and its practice is as sinful as the tendency to murder and its practice.  There is no excuse.  Someone who murders cannot be defended so that he may escape punishment based on mercy and grace.  In the same way someone who commits homosexual sin cannot be said to be sinless based on mercy and grace.  To nullify God’s word on the matter would only mean to nullify God altogether.  Thus humans have created their own god, which is the god who would comply with their lifestyle and the god who would not warn them of the impending judgment.  Because their god they created would serve their desires no matter what.  But the true God stands by His word.  Homosexual life is still sin no matter what.  If the LGBT people are to be defended, it is due to them being persecuted inhumanely.  But that’s the limit.  No need to twist the word of God for it.  No need to say that they should not be persecuted because homosexual life is not sin.  It is sin, but they still ought not to be persecuted, simply because they are humans.  This is the harmony of justice, grace, and mercy.  In the same way Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but warned her not to sin anymore.  In other words, sinful act is not a reason to persecute anyone.  In fact there is no warranted reason to persecute anyone period.  We are not created to persecute anyone.  We are not made by God to oppress anyone.  But sin must remain sin just the way the Scripture speaks of it.  Jesus did not tolerate sin.  Yet He forgave those who repented from their sins.

            When we see anyone being persecuted, no matter what religion she believes in, or what economic status, or sexual orientation, or race, or age, or what she did in the past, we must step in to stop the persecution.  Sin is still condemned as sin no matter what.  But the persecution must be opposed.  If someone who was an ISIS soldier, who had done evil things to others, now in need of help as he was persecuted, as followers of Christ we ought to offer help.  If he needs clothing, we give him clothes.  If he needs food, we offer him food.  If he needs water to drink, we give him water.  If he is sick, we provide medical care for him.  If he is abandoned in jail, we come to visit him.  This is our basic humanity, to defend the weak, to do good to others, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Living not according to our basic humanity means betraying our very identity.  This seemingly small action done to the persecuted is actually a tribute to the King of all.  When the basic humanity sparks in our heart, even though just a little, it is a sign of true life of man.  But when the basic humanity is dimmed in our heart, it is a sign of death.  The dead don’t have a place in the presence of God.  Only the living may stand in the presence of God.  Or by nature, the dead is dead because they are not in the presence of God.  They have separated themselves from the God of all the living.  And so, consequently, they can’t pretend that they are alive.

            Now, we are not saved because of our action.  This parable is not about being saved by our deeds.  This parable is about the true self within.  This parable is about our very identity.  Our true self dictates our action.  It is whether we are sheep or goats.  The sheep will behave like sheep.  And the goats will behave like goats.  The goats can’t behave like sheep anymore than the sheep behaving like goats.  The sheep will always be defending the weak, it’s their nature.  Whereas the goats will always be abandoning or even oppressing the weak, it’s their nature.  This parable thus is a strong warning to those who consider themselves to be sheep – those who would go to heaven.  Are you defending the weak?  Or are you oppressing them?  Or are you abandoning them?  When we see people suffering from hunger and thirst, are we just going to ignore them or are we going to fight for their welfare.  Many researchers have found out that poverty often is ingrained in the system.  We live in the world system that favors the strong and the wealthy.  The weak and the poor are marginalized.  We live in a time when the strong, the wealthy, the privileged, always get the best treatment.  Whereas the weak, the poor, and the underprivileged always get the worst treatment.  The strong always get priority.  The weak always get the last slots.  Knowing this reality, how we are acting will show our true color.  If we are sheep, we will quickly come to defend the weak for equal treatment.  If we are goats, we won’t bother, and often we would exploit the system for our own advantage.  Who are we identifying ourselves with?  The strong or the weak?

            Our choice comes with consequences.  When we identify ourselves with the strong, we get the advantages this world offers to the strong, being counted with the strong and receiving all the privileges of the strong.  But when we identify ourselves with the weak, we get the disadvantages this world assigns to the weak, being counted with the weak and receiving all the worst treatment the weak always get.  Our Lord, surprisingly, chose to be identified with the weak.  His teaching is not popular.  Those who have tasted the privilege of the strong, might not want to touch the disadvantage of the weak.  Remember the encounter Jesus had with the rich young man?  Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The young man could not bring himself to be identified with the poor.  He could not imagine himself being poor and weak.  The privileges he had been enjoying for being rich was hard to let go.  The law of the world is too sweet for the sinful nature.  And so this rich young man could not follow Jesus.  For Jesus was the ultimate example of that who has everything but yet He let go of everything (cf. Philippians 2:5-8).  People like this young man could pretend following Jesus, but they would not defend the weak.  It’s a life choice.  And the young man already made his choice.

            We do not have to let go of our wealth.  What we must understand is how to use the privilege and advantage we are given in order to defend the weak and not to enhance our sinful nature.  What we must understand is that our wealth actually belongs to God and thus God will hold us accountable for all the privilege and advantage we currently enjoy.  We need to transcend beyond the law of the world.  All the riches of the world is just temporary.  Our short life on earth may only enjoy a fraction of the world riches in just a very short time.  But what we do with our privilege will stand before the judgment of the King of all.  Are you the defender of the weak?  Or are you the oppressor of the weak?  Are you sheep or goat?

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