Who are the Least of These?
Now those who know me, either in the real or the virtual world, will probably have guessed by now that I am a constant advocate for Christian social engagement and social justice, and one of the Biblical passages that I often refer people to is Matthew 25: 31-46; what some people refer to as the parable of the "Sheep and the Goats", but is actually a reference to some future time of judgement when Christ will divide the nations as if dividing "sheep and goats."
However, after reading the exegesis offered by "Chaplain Mike" over on iMonk today, I'm not so sure that I will use this passage to the same ends again. He argues that "the least of these brothers of mine" is actually a reference to the church and that this is a parable concerning the judgment of the nations in relation to how they responded to the message and needs of the church. Given the likely context of Matthew's Gospel, which, many suggest was written to a Jewish Christian grouping within the Antiochene church, there is perhaps something to be said for this... particularly when it is seen in the light of the disciples previously being sent out to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10: 6), with a threat of judgment on those who would not recieve them (Matthew 10: 14-42), and subsequently to all the nations (Matthew 28: 19). The understanding therefore is that the people of ALL nations will subject to the same criteria of judgment.
What do you think of his take on this passage and what are the implications if he is right? I still believe that there is ample warrant in scripture to support the whole business of Christian social witness, but perhaps this is not such an unequivocal scriptural weapon to have in our armoury.