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The Least of These Within

God, I do have many fears. They pull me away from you and yet nothing I have draws be closer to you and to my truest self – I think because they cause me to abandon my false self. Afraid yet filled with joy is where I want to live because that is where I am most present with you – you who are always present with me.

It’s easy to think of our fears as things which keep us from Jesus, and that’s true if of course we see our fears as an enemy. However, I’m starting to see that our fears as part of us – the part of us who is crying out to meet Jesus.

What if instead of seeing our fears as the voice of satan or the enemy we saw them as our companion? What if instead of seeing our fears as the “demons” which haunt us we saw them as the demon possessed man whom Jesus loved. What if we approached our fears like we approach Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the prodigal son, the eldest son, or the Roman centurion who had just lost is daughter? What if we approached our fear as the lepers Jesus healed, the hungry people Jesus fed, the lame people Jesus touched, the sinners and tax collectors Jesus ate with?

I think we often treat the voice of fear as though it is the voice of evil when in fact it is more like the voice of John the Baptist, the voice of Isaiah, the voice of Daniel or the prophet Jeremiah, calling us toward the presence of God. What the voice of our fear is that of the least of these who though they called out for food, drink, clothing, friendship we ignored them because we though for sure the voice of God would come to us in something stronger, more obvious and more powerful.

We thought the voice of God would be in the wind and waves but it was actually in the poor, the marginalized, the hungry, the thirsty and the lonely both among us and within us.

This is why we must hear our fears, sit with them and introduce them to Jesus. Because we often view fear as evil, an opponent, darkness or an adversary we tend toward one of two actions plans: (1) Ignore. Ignore. Ignore – hoping the fear will go away OR (2) evoke the name of Jesus to rid ourselves of the fear.

Here is a third option. Befriend the fear, asking the fear questions and introduce Jesus to our fear. Why? Because our fear is an essential part of us – part of us which has not fully realized the love of God. Joh writes, “There is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear.” But what do we often do? Instead of introducing God to our fear (the parts that are not perfect in love) we cast out all within us that is not perfected in love, that we don’t love or that we fear God doesn’t love. Because we fear the love we have is not perfected in love we cut off our fear hoping that our love will be perfected through our own efforts of purification and righteousness or something other than love. We cut of our nose to spite our face hoping that by having removed our “nose” we will be more acceptable to God.

Zacchaeus, the man born blind, the demoniac, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the demoniac, the lepers, the hungry, the sinners, the tax collectors: these are the people Jesus went to and they are probably the people we try to go to on our best days but they are more likely than not the people we ignore within ourselves. Or maybe we don’t ignore them. Maybe we drag our fears our in the street calling of the power of God to pass judgment and rid them from us once and for all.

This spirituality of the Pharisee goes like this: If we can be pure enough then God will bless us. Or a more vulnerable translation: If we are pure enough, righteous enough, strong enough, fearless enough, trusting enough, calm enough, holy enough then God will BE WITH us. This is a gospel of someone other than Jesus.

This is the gospel of Jesus.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Let us be people who befriend the least of these especially the least of these within ourselves.

Amen.