Truly I tell you, just as you did it to ONE of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:40)
An often-forgotten word in scripture is the word “one” from the passage above. Frequently I hear people quote this passage saying, “…just as you did it to the least of these…” leaving out a critical element of Jesus’ message: ONE.
The absence of “one” in the verse shrinks the impact and staying power.
First, we lose the specificity of what God is calling us to. God meets us on a one-to-one basis, intimately and personally. Jesus invites us to do the same with a brother or sister in need. It’s easy to become God’s frozen chosen because we don’t even know where to start. The notion of feeding, clothing, visiting, caring for just ONE person at a time opens us all to the specific enterprise of serving the human family.
Second, we dull the sharp edge of Jesus’ invitation. These words form the final instruction of Jesus to his disciples before he was betrayed and handed over to the authorities. They remind us of the requisite and radical role we play in God’s kingdom. These words are part of an apocalyptic parable of Jesus that included no “Statement of Faith” or creed or religious dogma. According to Jesus, what matters is the response of ONE person to the needs of just ONE other person.
Finally, we make the easy mistake of assuming the “ONE” is someone else—not ourselves. But, if we trace the events our lives back far enough, we all arrive at places where someone gave us a hand up, a special connection, or unique opportunity. Life comes pain-equipped, so the journey of life is more roller coaster than Merry-Go-Round. Until we recognize our own needs and share those with another, we leave unfinished the handiwork of God and deny others the experience of serving the world.
In this issue of “Sharing the Word” we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Brad Neary’s ministry with The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program. As much as anyone I know, Brad stands out as an example of the impact that just one person can have—his efforts over the past decade have touched the lives of thousands of people. And in return, they have touched his life. Pure joy!
Friends, God is in the hope-building business — a free-wheeling, unending supply of hope— and we are both God’s intended recipients AND delivery method. God’s plan for inspiring the world and igniting the imagination of other people is by the power of one: YOU!
Sharing the Word,
Rev. Dr. John F. Ross
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program