|Posted by communications on June 10, 2020 at 7:20 PM|
“… ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ ” Matthew 25:45
As I watched the horrific video of George Floyd’s life being literally choked out of him by a man whose job was supposed to be to protect and serve, I could not help but think of these words from Matthew’s gospel. In the context of talking about the so-called “Judgment of the Nations”, Jesus makes it quite clear that any judgment of humanity by God will be based primarily on how we treat the “least of these”, which he delineates here as being those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. This is a clear echo of the Hebrew prophets; whose constant refrain was to care for the widow and the orphan. Jesus and the prophets clearly understood that God-like love was characterized first and foremost by a preferential option for those who had been unjustly marginalized by society.
I have never understood Jesus’ list here as being all inclusive, and I think in our current context we are compelled to add “victims of racism” to the list. To be clear, Jesus was not saying “least” in the sense that those listed are inferior in any way, but rather that they have been treated as inferior unjustly. There can be no doubt that black and brown people have been unjustly treated as inferior for centuries. George Floyd’s death is just one more painful example of this reality. Not only has American society not taken care of people of color, but it has created and allowed systems that actively oppress and subjugate them.
In these verses from Matthew, Jesus unequivocally equates himself with the “least of these”. It is hard to overestimate the radical nature of these words in his first century setting. Sadly, they remain radical for many today. If we take these words seriously, George Floyd should represent Jesus to us. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that when we see that video, we ought not just see George Floyd having the life choked out of him, but Jesus himself. It is from this perspective, I believe, that we as Christians must frame our conversations and discern how we might participate in bringing about positive change.
Yours in Christ,