Speaker: Goats are judged because they don’t show compassion
by Dennis A. Smith, World Mission regional liaison for South America | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Presbyterians do mission in partnership, and a vital part of that partnership is celebrating how God’s Spirit speaks through our partners in God’s mission.
As Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission partners from Latin America and the Caribbean met in Cartagena, Colombia last month, the Rev. Dr. Yvette Noble Bloomfield, deputy general secretary of the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, led nearly 60 participants from 33 churches, theological seminaries and faith-based organizations in a conversation on the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Bloomfield is a resident of the Cayman Islands.
As she approached Jesus’ treatise on the Judgment of the Nations at the end of Matthew 25, Bloomfield insisted that the division between sheep and goats, between the righteous and unrighteous, was not due to the latter’s violation of a moral code but because they failed to be fully human toward their fellow humans. They failed to show compassion.
This extended to a failure of memory on the part of the unrighteous, Bloomfield said. They ask the divine judge, “When did we do all this to you, Lord? When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked and imprisoned?” They failed to recognize their own inhumanity.
“What does the PC(USA) seek through mission?” Bloomfield asked. “If we are seeking fame and a sterling reputation, we won’t find it in this text. God’s mission is not to promote acts of charity, but to touch the lives of broken communities and broken individuals. We touch each other by building relationships. We don’t send a package to the poor, we visit them in prison. We question how food has become a weapon of war. We question the commercialization of water sources. We challenge homelessness, and the building of walls to keep us separate from those who are on the margins.”
In all of this, Bloomfield observed, we must pay careful attention to how and through whom we have experienced God’s grace in our lives. To shield ourselves from those who suffer, from those on the fringes of society, is to shield ourselves from God’s grace.
The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, continued the emphasis on Matthew 25 the following day. Moffett said that the General Assembly had challenged the PC(USA) to become a “Matthew 25 church” and that the PMA is responding to this challenge with a strategic emphasis on congregational vitality, combating racism and white privilege, and seeking to root out systemic poverty.
As a church, proclaimed Moffett, we still have time to get it right. The world in which we live does not call for us to “re-act,” but to “be-act.”
The judgment Jesus forecasts, Moffett said, is not against individuals but against nations and systems that exploit the vulnerable and deny communities the opportunity to flourish. All these challenges, she emphasized, presuppose creative engagement with our global partners.
Moffett expressed her gratitude to partner churches throughout the world that are doing what matters to God. “Our hope is that these consultations will deepen our self-understanding of our mission, our way of being, as, in gratefulness, we embrace God’s mercy and God’s dream for humankind.”
Dennis Smith is World Mission’s regional liaison for South America. Based in Buenos Aires, he works with 16 mission partners from Colombia to Argentina.
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