Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’
–Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV)
When I read this Scripture a few days ago, something new struck me. For the first time, I noticed the word “one” when the King says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”
The King doesn’t say the righteous will inherit the kingdom because they eradicated hunger. Nor does He laud them for healing the sick or housing everyone who lived on the streets.
No, He says because they did something for one person, they are welcomed into the kingdom.
With the help of friends, I’ve realized that when I ask the kinds of questions I posed yesterday, I’ve lost sight of the importance of the individual. I’ve entered the realm of the abstract and forgotten that God relates to us on the level of the personal.
I suspect that in the process of doing so, I may actually further oppress those on the margins by not listening to or being changed by their stories of justice and transformation.
If I see injustice on the earth at all, then I assume it hasn’t been addressed and nothing has changed.
Working in international development – where programs aim at larger scale change – solidified this belief for me.
Even as I slowly spiraled into this cynical viewpoint, I started spending time with a middle school girl whose family had refugee status in the United States. For a year-and-a-half she and I met together on a weekly basis for tutoring – a time I came to cherish.
Through our everyday, personal interactions, I got to see justice peak through here and there. I got to help her build a foundation with which she could have a fuller life.
When I started meeting with her, she didn’t know her multiplication tables, and her youngest cousin spit on me and the math worksheet we’d just completed. By the time I moved a year-and-a-half later, she was excelling in math and the same cousin sidled up next to me with a book.
Looking back on that time together, I see that justice takes place in small, everyday ways in one person’s life.
Justice is here on earth. It’s just not necessarily as grand and all-encompassing yet as we might hope.