How Can We Live Well?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his righthand and the goats at the left.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 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.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
And the king will answer them, ‘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.'"
Last Sunday, Jim shared a message about how we can live well in light of the kingship of Christ and the coming of his Kingdom. Cutting to the chase, he first gave the straightforward answer to the question: 'In order to live well, according to Christian teaching, we cease to live for ourselves, and we live for God and for others'.
Drawing from David Brooks' The Second Mountain, Jim explained the sort of person we become, and the 'glow' we have when we truly live for others:
'Every once in a while, I meet a person who radiates joy. These are people who seem to glow with an inner light. They are kind, tranquil, delighted by small pleasures and grateful for the large ones... they live for others, and not for themselves. They know why they were put on this earth and derive a deep satisfaction from doing what they have been called to do.'
As Jim then explained, however, it is not just living for others in any shape or form that is our goal, but a living for others that comes from knowing we are loved by God, and loving those around us as he loves us. 'We are not simply to do things for people in need... we are to see Jesus in them'. This is a call to radical empathy, to see those around you not as 'others' in need, but as neighbours, as brothers and sisters in whom you can see your own struggles and your own needs, and in whom you also see Jesus.
In addition to seeing Jesus in them, Jim said that, metaphorically, 'there is also a sense in which we too are to be like them.'
Hungry - we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice, and for God himself.
Stranger - while many are keen not to be the misfit, not to be the odd one out, we are called to set apart, not to conform. 'People become distinctive and exceptional people, radiating joy, by not conforming, by being a bit strange as a Christian.'
Naked - being naked is often seen as shameful. But in a metaphorical sense we ought to be naked and unashamed, unencumbered before God, and stripped of our fears and insecurities.
Sick - to think we can rid ourselves or our frailty and immortality is an enduring human illusion. We are to share in Christ's sufferings, and know and embrace our mortality and our dependence on God.
Imprisoned - to be imprisoned to Christ is the paradox of the Christian life. By limiting our choices and becoming captive to God, we maximise our freedom. 'God is the master, whom to serve is perfect freedom' - St. Augustine
In order to be an agent of the Kingdom of God, we are to serve those in need around us and to identify with them. While we needn't seek to become hungry, sick or imprisoned physically, in a metaphorical sense we as Christians can embrace these categories. The love of God frees us from the fear of feeling insufficient or lacking, and frees us to love those who find themselves in physical need.
For the full recording of Jim's sermon, see here.