By Miguel De La Torre
We should always be careful with biblical interpretations that divorce theology from action. How do we guard from reducing the mystery of God into a simple salvation formula that cheapens what was costly to God? No doubt we all can lead others through the “Roman Road to Salvation,” but have we simplified salvation so much that it requires nothing from us?
Please don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say. Without a doubt I recognize salvation to be a gift of God’s grace. But, if there is no radical outward manifestation reflecting an inward conversion, then we are left questioning if such a conversion took place.
To read Jesus’ words is to be offended. He challenges our comfort, our lifestyle, our patriotism, and how we are to relate to the world around us. I have no doubt that if Christians (yours truly included) were to actually humble ourselves and literally follow Jesus’ teachings, the world would be turned upside down. But the fact that Christianity — both liberal and conservative brands — is so irrelevant in world affairs indicates how much we have watered down God’s Word so that our interpretations of Scripture can remain complicit with the ways of our society.
Imagine with me what Jesus would say today about immigration. Not what a Christian patriot would say, nor even an American Christian, but the Jesus who took the time to walk the migrant trails and talk to those who were hungry, thirsty and naked. I would imagine that he would recast his famous parable concerning the sheep and the goats something like this:
And on that day the Son of Man will return in all his regalia, accompanied by the host of angels. Then will he set up his throne and be seated before all the people in full glory. And before him all the nations will come together; and he will separate them, one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats will be placed on the left.
Then the King will say to those on the left, “Away from me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for Satan and his demons. For I was hungry while crossing the desert and you did not give me food, because you placed vain nationalistic patriotism before basic human rights and dignity. I was thirsty while following the resources and labor stolen from me through your foreign policies and you didn’t give me water because you feared I would use up all your social services. I was an alien within your midst, and you questioned my legality rather than recognizing me as a carrier of the imago Dei. I was left naked by my journey, and you gave me no clothing because you feared my brown body. The desert crossing left me ill and you didn’t visit me, because you assumed I brought diseases into your country and you were afraid of catching something. And when the migra threw me in prison, you did not come to me, smug in your self-righteous belief that I was responsible for my predicament.”
Then the goats will reply, saying, “Lord, when did we see you in need of food or drink? I would have sent you a check, but I didn’t want to break any laws. You can understand that, can’t you? Or, or when were you an alien? You weren’t one of those illegals, were you? Lord, tell me, when were you naked? I mean, I always give the clothes I outgrow to my church; didn’t you find something there that fit you? Or when were you ill, or in prison? If I’d have known I would have sent you an electronic greeting card!”
“¡Basta!” The Lord will reply. “Verily, verily I say unto you, because you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.”
Then will the King say to those on his right, “Come, you who have the blessing of my Father, into the kingdom prepared for you and the angels since the foundation of the Earth. For I was hungry, and you left food for me on the migrant trails. I was thirsty, and you filled tanks and jugs with water in the desert so that I could drink. I was an alien, and you made me familia. I was naked, and you clothed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was ill, and you set up a medical aid center in the desert to bind my wounds. And when I was thrown into prison and abused, you fought for my rights to humane treatment.”
Then will the upright make answer to him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you in need of food, and give it to you? Or in need of drink? Or naked, or an alien, or ill, or imprisoned?”
And the King of Kings will answer and say to them, “Compañeros, verily I say to you, because you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”
And these will go away into eternal life, but the goats on the left into eternal punishment and damnation.
And, my dear hermanos y hermanas, what separates sheep from goats is not what sinner’s prayer they recited, what church they belonged to, nor what theology they professed. What separates sheep from goats is what they did — or did not do — to the least of these.
For those of us who live a life marked by power, possessions, and privilege: Our only hope in entering Paradise, based on the words of our Lord and Savior, is by having one of the least of these vouch for us.