the only words i have…

I have not been a Bible-quoting man for some time now.  My relationship with Scripture, and with the Christian faith in general, has undergone a complicated and unpredictable journey over the last decade and a half.

But tonight, processing the news from Ferguson, Missouri, all I can do is turn to the words from this Sunday’s Gospel reading.  And I offer it to everyone, on every side of this issue:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory… he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matt. 25:31-40)

As my pastor explained in her sermon, the challenge of this passage is to see Christ in all — whether or not they look, dress, think, behave, or believe the way we think they should.  It’s a hard lesson, and one I struggle with on an almost daily basis.

But its lesson extends beyond the Christian faith.  One doesn’t have to be Christian to see the presence of Christ.  You just have to see the humanity that is present in each and every one of us — the unarmed teenager and the overzealous officer, the peaceful protester and the rioting looter.

It is not easy.  But it is all the more necessary.  Because it is only when we allow ourselves to dehumanize others that we permit and perpetuate the kind of world where men and women are killed without a second thought, and those responsible face no consequence.