When Jesus talks about serving food and drink/helping/visiting the poor, the sick and the prisoner, he is not just talking about a charitable act. It’s not just about the food or drink that we serve, it’s not just about the visit, it’s more about adopting this person and that one into our family, into the kingdom of God. It’s about love, forgiveness, and genuine interest in how they came to be where and who they are. It’s about embracing the other, the enemy even, and understanding their lives and choices. It’s seeing Jesus in their very being. Because each of us human beings is made in the image of God.
It’s about adoption. A missionary in Uganda, Katie Davis writes that “Adoption is a redemptive response to tragedy that happens in this broken world. And every single day, it is worth it, because adoption is God’s heart. His Word says, ‘In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.’[Ephesians 1:5”
Adoption is not just about becoming someone’s mother or father legally, it means “to take by choice into a relationship…to take up and practice or use…to sponsor the care and maintenance of.” It is a big step beyond serving meals and drink. In the context of Jesus’ teachings it means to treat someone like they are one of God’s family of mankind, regardless of what they have done with their lives or what was done to them. It means to see beyond our judgments, to become deeply acquainted with, to affirm each person as one of God’s children made in His image.
The theme of serving the poor and needy is a constant throughout the Bible from Exodus 22:22-3 to Proverbs 23:10 to Jeremiah 7:6 to Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 25:31ff to the Epistles in James 1:27 to Acts 20:35. That’s only a smattering of the verses. God himself is referred to as father to the fatherless! [Psalm 68:5-6] So, if we are to take care of other people, we have to go beyond just physical stuff to love, forgiveness, embrace and helping to fill their other needs as well, such as spiritual needs.
The kingdom of God is where every human being belongs. So, if we want to live in the kingdom here on earth, we must be and live and act as if all humans belong, regardless of what they have done with their lives they were made in God’s image. This kind of love, God’s kind of love, is what frees others from the grip of their sin. It is the showering of love and forgiveness and acceptance that breaks open the heart and allows the Indwelling Spirit of God in each of us to come forward, to lead us, to heal and transform us.
If we who believe in Jesus’ teachings and who acknowledge our own sinfulness, will own all that we are, then we can love, accept, embrace all the other “sinners” on this planet, because we are no longer denying our own sin and projecting it onto others. And that is the redemptive nature of love. We can live in the kingdom of God right here on earth.
Since we humans left the Garden, left living in the presence of God, He adopts each of us as His own. We, too, who model our lives after Jesus’, need to adopt other human beings, so that they can come to live fully in the kingdom of God, along with us. After all, they are part of our human family and God’s family, too.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I deny my own sin and project my outrage onto others? Or do I own all that I am, all the guilt and shame, the pain and suffering? Can I see others with God’s eyes? Can I allow them to be who they are? Can I feel God’s love and forgiveness for me? Can I offer God’s love to all others?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ. And may we in turn treat everyone else like they are one of God’s family of mankind, regardless of who they are or what they have done. May we live in the kingdom of God on this earth embracing all of creation.