There is probably no more divisive figure in the western world today than Donald Trump. You either love him or hate him - with a passion. There was a time when I personally couldn't stand his arrogance, or his stances on economics, religion, women, foreigners or diplomacy. I’m not sure how he finds congruency between his policies and his so-called christian faith. I’ve doubted his intentions and his ability to selflessly lead a nation. If I saw him on the street I wouldn’t give him the time of day.
The sheep and the goats
And yet this is the attitude that Jesus challenges in his parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. He tells his listeners that whenever they do something for the poor, the sick, the needy, they do it for him. We often take this as a passage of judgment, as a way of deciding who is going to heaven and who’s going to hell, who’s in God’s good books and who is not. I know I’ve looked at Trump’s recent antics on the news and figured that he is not caring for the least in his potential kingdom, let alone the kingdom of God.
I’ve cast my judgment, and placed Trump firmly in the camp of goats that Jesus sends to “eternal punishment”. If we’re honest, we’ve all done this on numerous occasions, with too many people. But is this what Jesus is trying to do with this passage? Does he want us all looking at each other and ourselves, to work out whether we’ve done enough good deeds to enter eternal life? Or is there a deeper message he is trying to convey?
Jesus the outcast
Could it be possible that when Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it for me”, he is pointing to his presence, his Holy Spirit dwelling within those we would deem unworthy of such a blessing?
When Jesus refers to the outcast as himself saying, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”, is he not exhorting his listeners to see God, present here in his “brothers and sisters” and pointing to their inherent dignity as people, created in the image of God? Is this not a greater and more meaningful message than any interpretation that seeks to reinforce our dualistic thinking and damn those who do not live like us? Is Jesus trying to challenge us to something greater or confirm our biases?
And so we return to Donald Trump. If he was hungry, I certainly don’t think I would feed him. If he was sick or in prison I wouldn’t spare him the time to go visit. Because I have judged him as one of the “least of these”, for the precise reason that he himself fails to acknowledge the poor, imprisoned and different in his own community with any sense of worth. Am I to judge him this way, dooming him to an eternity of torment in my own mind? Or should I look past my prejudices to see Jesus already present with Trump, selflessly pouring himself out for the man, who needed the cross as much as any one else?
Trump may not exhibit Christ-likeness the way I think he should, but am I to judge him for it and withhold my love from him because of it? Or should I look to bless him and call out the goodness of God that is already with him? Is God looking for me to be more ‘discerning’, or more generous with my love? Was God discerning of my condition when he forgave me, or was he extravagantly generous with his Love, while I was still a sinner?
Who is your “least of these”?
Some might find it easy to see God in Donald Trump. But who are your “least of these”? The unemployed, the rich, the immigrant, the mega-church pastor, the Muslim, the homosexual or transgender, the young, the old, the homeless, the warmonger? What are you withholding from them? Food, clothing, dignity, bathrooms?
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of [your] least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Russell Croft has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
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