"I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’"
When I was younger and first heard that Jesus said this, it was presented with an assumption of innocence. The “least of these” were unfortunate, they’d fallen on hard times. They deserved this care.
But as family separation began at the U.S. border, and I heard fellow believers say we should withhold care because the border-crossers had broken a law, I returned to Jesus’ words. Especially about that prisoner.
What if the prisoner was guilty? What if they absolutely did the terrible thing? Would Jesus take them off this list? Would we be released from our responsibility to care for them in Jesus’ name?
Or might it be that Jesus longs all the more that the guilty receive care?
Sometimes we are withholding while our God is lavish.
We think that deservedness is a prerequisite for care.
Or that innocence makes someone more worthy of compassion.
The naked, the sick, the prisoner invite not only a feeling of compassion, but an act of it. Not an emotion of caring, but a gesture of it. Because being cared for reminds us that our deservedness comes not from what we do, but who we are. We are worthy of care, no matter what choices we’ve made. And as we care for others, we embody the truth of their worthiness as well.
Oh Jesus, Who have I withheld care from, deeming them unworthy? May I see you in them, and give them the care they need, whether they deserve it or not. Amen.
Art: Dea Jenkins | "Brandi Praying" | digital photograph | 2016
Practice: Better Conversations
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