This week’s article is written by Arnie Saaf, a member of Godfrey First United Methodist Church.
One of the Old Testament laws is stated in Numbers 5:2: “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body.” (NIV) The camp of the Israelites was to be kept clean. Everyone had to relieve themselves “outside the camp” (see Deuteronomy 23: 12 &13). The remains of all sacrifices had to be burned outside the camp.
We don’t have such laws today, but we have prejudices and boundaries that frame what we call our “comfort zone.” Jesus came along and showed us to whom we should minister... the widows, orphans, lepers, prostitutes and cheating tax collectors... he even touched the dead and brought them back to life. There were no limits to his comfort zone.
We are charged to go outside the camp, where things are not so nice and where there are people with whom we would rather not associate. These are the areas to which Jesus calls us. Read Matthew 25: 31-46. He calls us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the needy, care for the sick, visit the prisoner... and not just those folks in our congregation, or friends and relatives. He’s talking about strangers, outcasts of society, who live in our own community. If we do this, he will reply: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”