Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Loaded Question: “How often DO you…?”

I cringe when I hear the question, "How often DO you...?"; maybe you can relate to this reaction.  Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, maybe even jealousy usually creep up on me.  I start to think about how if I’m honest with myself in answering that dreaded question, it would come out like “not nearly enough!”  Can you relate to this feeling when at work, in school, daily life, or most importantly, being a Christian?

Examples for work:
“How often do you offer your friendship by listening to someone’s problems OR help out a co-worker on a project OR stay late to finish an assignment?”

Examples for school:
“How often do you practice your Spanish OR study for your exams OR pay attention during class?”

Examples for daily life:
“How often do you exercise OR eat fruits and vegetables OR call your parents while away at college OR say please and thank you?”

Examples for being a Christian:
“How often do you read your Bible OR attend Church services OR give to the poor and needy?”

Especially as a Christian, these “How often do you…” questions relate to offering your gifts and talents to those less fortunate; attending Church services; reading your Bible, writings of the Church Fathers and the lives of the Saints; offering a ride to the elderly; donating a toy at Christmas; praying for those who love us AND those who hate us; helping a friend in need; saying thank you to your parents…feel free to add your own ideas here...

But before you get discouraged and the shame and guilt quickly pour in, may I suggest a very drastic and “eternal” alternative question?

Would you rather hear “How often DID you…?” at your Last Judgment?

As Orthodox Christians, we have an opportunity to increase our response whenever asked questions about reading the Bible, going to Church services, giving to the poor and needy, offering our service and talents (whatever they may be).

This concept is taken directly from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 through 46. These verses describe the King gathering all the nations and separating them, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will say to the sheep on his right hand, “Come, you 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; 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 ask the King, “when” did we do all these things for you? The King responds, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” And the King told those on his left hand (the goats) to depart from Him because they did not do those things to Him. “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

In The Orthodox Study Bible, the footnotes for this section of the Gospel states this “is not simply a parable, but a prophecy of the universal judgment that will indeed come…The standard of judgment is uncalculated mercy towards others.”

At our Last Judgment, we certainly don’t want to hear the “eternally” loaded question of “How often DID you…?”

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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