I recently came across that expression for the second time. The first time was in the story of a special education teacher, her classroom and the children she wanted to see learning and growing, children that the rest of the educational system had forgotten and for whom they had little concern even when they rememered their existence.
This summer, I was again confronted with the expression in something I was reading. A few years ago our mission asked us to begin participating in activities that would encourage our personal growth and development and part of that has been an assigned reading book each year. We’ve read at least 3 now, and each one has confronted, challenged and encouraged me – but none so much as the book we were given to read this past summer entitled “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Sterns. The following is one of “those” sections that brought me to my knees as I realized my own sin and guilt in this very area… my own struggles with this very mindset…
“Whenever a major jetliner crashes anywhere in the world, it inevitably sets off a worldwide media frenzy covering every aspect of the tragedy. I want you to imagine for a moment that you woke up this morning to the following headline: “One Hundred Jetliners Crash, Killing 26,500.” Think of the pandemonium this would create across the world as heads of state, parliaments, and congresses convened to grapple with the nature and causes of this tragedy. Think about the avalanche of media coverage that it would ignite around the globe as reporters shared the shocking news and tried to communicate its implications for the world. Air travel would no doubt grind to a halt as governments shut down airlines and panicked air travelers canceled their trips. The National Transportation Safety Board and perhaps the FBI, CIA, and local law enforcement agencies and their international equivalents would mobilize investigations and dedicate whatever manpower was required to understand what happened and to prevent it from happening again.Now imagine that the very next day, one hundred more planes crashed – and one hundred more the next, and the next, and the next. It is unimaginable that something this terrible could ever happen.But it did – and it does.It happened today, and it happened yesterday. It will happen again tomorrow. But there was no media coverage. No heads of state, parliaments, or congresses stopped what they were doing to address the crisis, and no investigations were launched. Yet more than 26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty, and it will happen again today and tomorrow and the day after that. Almost 10 million children will be dead in the course of a year. So why does the crash of a single plane dominate the front pages of newspapers across the world while the equivalent of one hundred planes filled with children crashing daily never reaches our ears? And even though we now have the awareness, the access, and the ability to stop it, why have we chosen not to? Perhaps one reason is that these kids who are dying are not our kids; they’re somebody else’s.”
I know about the reality of these "preventable causes [of death] related to poverty" firsthand... in my own family as I've watched my own children struggle through malaria, dysentery, typhoid... as I've sat with families who've lost a child or other family member from one of theses diseases... as I've wept because a neighbor's child is no longer there to wave and greet us... as we've handed out kilos of rice and any fresh veggies left in the fridge to someone begging for the next meal for their malnourished and hungry family... as we've paid for and given away treatment or transported children to the clinic for bloodwork and a doctor's diagnosis... It is even a small part of the children's presentation that I do in churches: "The most dangerous wild animal in all of Africa is... (and I let the kids try and guess, but no one has successfully... yet) the mosquito." Yet have I recently spent time praying, seeking what God might have me to do about this? Certainly not like I did when it was my child who was sick. It is easy to forget, to get caught up in the busyness of school programs, soccer and volleyball games, homework, H1N1 and whooping cough and forget... or just choose not to consider because it is so far away and it is easier that way.
Yet, God's Word is clear:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those 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 will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'Then He will also say to those on the left hand,'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."-Matt 25:31-46
One version uses the phrase "those who are overlooked and ignored" instead of "the least of these." Just the other day, I read a friend's blog that has broken my heart anew... I've finished reading this book, I'm working through a bible study about "respectable sins" - including the sins of ungodliness and selfishness - I don't believe in coincidence, so that begs the following questions: What will I prayerfully do? & What do you think? What will you prayerfully do?