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.” —Matthew 25:40
There’s a game we used to play at church camp when I was a counselor. On every kid, a piece of masking tape with a biblical character written on it would be stuck to their backs. The biblical character could be anything from Judas to Jesus to the donkey that carried his pregnant mother to Bethlehem. Players didn’t know what was on their own backs. Play began by reading the words on the backs of others, then mingling and treating them accordingly. Each person tried to guess who or what was written on their back by the way people engaged with them.
What would it be like to live among people who treated everyone as if the sign on their back said “Jesus” or “Child of God,” and every Christian saw their life's calling as treating people in such a way that they could guess this?
The last weeks, we’ve been hearing about how the daily death toll from COVID-19 is like 9/11 happening every single day or five to six times a week. It’s hard to wrap our heads around those numbers—to consider each individual was somebody’s child, somebody’s friend, somebody’s loved one. I hope we can avoid being numbed by the numbers and that we can emulate our response to the pandemic to those we honored for their response on 9/11, even as the vaccines are disseminated among us.
We honored the brave people who ran up flights of stairs for the single-minded purpose of saving others as the buildings were burning. We honored those who carried friends, coworkers, and strangers down those many flights of steps, even if it meant they didn’t get out themselves. We honored their sacrifice and we coalesced together against a common enemy that would do us harm (even if we messed up who that enemy actually was, but that’s another blog). We hoped that if faced with unimaginable circumstances, we too would be willing to sacrifice even for the sake of strangers.
In however many months the pandemic will be central in our lives, let’s think of each day as our chance to be heroic against a common enemy that is as stealthy as any terrorist group. Now is the time to think of others, to run up the stairs! Now is the time to treat every person—especially the least among us—as if they have “Jesus” written on masking tape fixed to their backs.
Discipleship usually isn’t one big event, but a thousand little decisions we might not even realize we are making. Let’s make sure we don’t look back and see we missed our chance to live in a way that reflects our love of the Christ who lives in each of us.