The Day of Judgement should hold no fear for Christians. However, Jesus’ words can raise some doubts in our minds about the basis of our salvation. Does the fact that we will be judged by our actions to “the least of these” mean that we are in fact only saved if we do enough good?
On the contrary, the fact that the judgement of Christ has only two possible verdicts – a person is either a sheep or a goat – points to the fact that what is really at stake is our acceptance or rejection of Christ. However the fact that judgement is based on our service to the most needy does point to several important things:
Firstly, it points to the fact that God’s saving power at work in our lives is so potent that in all normal cases it will result in us doing these good works.
Secondly, these particular works will be the “firstfruits” of lives filled with God’s love. This is because in these cases: they appeal to us most strongly, the needs are great, the cases simple, the remedies easy, the benefits obvious and the glory to God unarguable. Therefore if we love Christ we will certainly love the needy.
Thirdly, we should make love the goal of our salvation. Our faith is well-formed when we make Christ’s love our goal. This focus on love leads us to Jesus, then to repentance, humility and a hunger for righteousness that draws us ever more deeply into relationship with God.
1. You should seek opportunities to serve the most needy, even though in our culture they are less obvious and less numerous than in other times. You can do this by living prudently in order to be as generous as possible, prioritising helping in ways that involve us in personal relationships, and looking for situations where people are most in need.
2. Do not confuse the root of your faith for its fruit. The Christian’s primary focus must be on love for God and man, not on holiness or religious actions as an end in themselves.
3. Weigh up your opportunities to serve as if you were serving Jesus himself, since whatever you do for “the least” we do for him.
4. Sincerely examine your heart for the selfishness that leads to disregard for the needs of others.
5. Being a Christian isn’t fundamentally about a spiritual experience or a set of religious rules, but the opportunity to know God’s love for yourself and to truly love other people as God has loved you. So, any person who desires to be “good” should, if they know about Jesus, want to be a Christian. This simple fact helps us to explain our faith to people.