Are We Sheep or Goats?
“The king will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, placing the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then he will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:32–40
There was a little girl many years ago who disappeared and was gone for over a year before anyone noticed. Her name was Rilya Shenise Wilson. The childcare worker assigned to her created visit logs showing that Rilya was fine, but she had never set foot in the home where it was said that Rilya and her younger sister were tied up and kept in a cage. Rilya was only four years old when she disappeared. She has never been found. For a while they looked for her, there was a reward, and she became a pawn in some politician’s agenda. But no tips were called in. Nobody noticed she was gone and no one has ever found her. No one is looking anymore. She has been forgotten. Rilya was an invisible little girl, an invisible poor black child born to a drug-addicted mother and placed in foster care. Even though we know her name, we are going to call her Christ the King.
A man died the other night under the railroad bridge in the center of the city. He’s still there, but it’s hard to see him because he is so thin and his body is huddled under his ragged coat, just a bare foot sticking out. He died from exposure lying next to his rusty shopping cart. Nobody misses him. Someone may stumble upon him someday, but only by accident. He has no name that we’ll ever know. No license or credit card. So we’ll just call him Christ the King.
Denise is cowering in the corner of her bedroom. She hears voices now. Kind voices. Much kinder than the voice of her raging husband. She’s not really sure where he is right now, but it’s better if she stays very quiet and doesn’t move at all. She probably can’t move now anyway. Her leg is bent at a very funny angle. It was a long way down those stairs. An eternity crawling to the corner. She’s not afraid anymore. She’s just hoping that the voices she’s hearing are people who are coming to get her and take her away. After all, she is Christ the King.
James sits in his cell. They just told him today’s the day that he’ll be executed. He heard them say something about mashed potatoes — and meatloaf, they said. He doesn’t understand, but it sounds good. A little saliva drools out of the corner of his mouth. He sits there all day- until 6pm. That’s the time they said. When he’s finished eating, they unlock his cell and he follows them dutifully down the hall. King James. Christ the King.
Regina lies in her bed day after day, usually on sheets wet with her own urine. She can’t see very well anymore, so they treat her as if she’s deaf and dumb, too. Nobody visits Regina, so they spend most of their time with the ones whose families could make a stink. In fact, Regina’s monitor went off about a half hour ago because the IV needle pulled out of her vein. She is moaning and can see the shadowy shapes pass by the door of her room, but they never stop. They would do something if they knew she was Christ the King.
We are all goats. Every last one of us. Until Rilya is found. Until the nameless man finds a home and women are safe in their homes. Until the execution of the mentally impaired is stopped. Until the elderly are cared for and honored. We are all goats. There is not a single sheep among us.
We are goats sitting around waiting for a King. I don’t understand why. Why are we still looking for one like King David, one like Solomon? Why are we still waiting for a Messiah? Why do we still look for one who will conquer by force? Why do we look to a Second Coming to bring in an age of righteousness? We pray, “O God, give us a Deliverer!” “Give us a King!” We’ve been praying this way for over 2,000 years!
What is this Second Coming we talk about? Wasn’t the first good enough? Wasn’t the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ good enough? Was there something left undone when Jesus rose from the dead?
With our goat eyes focused on the heavens praying for a great conqueror, it’s no wonder we haven’t seen Christ hungry, thirsty, alone, sick, naked, or imprisoned all around us. How could we? How could we possibly be sheep when Christ is crucified in front of our eyes every single day? How could we claim to be sheep when we don’t even see?
Is there any hope for us? Can we begin to see? And, if we can, then what? We couldn’t stop the crucifixion of Jesus, how can we stop the millions that are happening today? What can we do? Can goats turn into sheep?
It would take a powerful healing — recovery of sight to the blind. Not the kind of sight that makes us see people who need our charity. What we need is the kind of sight that shows us that we are all in this together — you, me, Rilya, James, Regina — all of us. We must see this. Our collective salvation depends on it.
If we can finally begin to see the invisible people there will be Kings everywhere we look. Kings that we must treat better than the King we worship — we didn’t do so well with him. But he said we would have another chance. He must have known there would be plenty more like him.
Like Regina. We left her lying forsaken in the nursing home bed. But now we can see her, and go into her room. Treat her wounds. Bandage her bleeding places. We can gently bathe her and clothe her in a magnificent robe. Bring her a feast of anything she can have and lift a cup to her lips. Then sit at her feet until she dismisses us.
And Denise? What do the people do when a King is held hostage? We storm the place where she is imprisoned. We call in all our resources to get her out! We take her back to the castle and guard the gates. We nurture her back to life and health and happiness, signing our names on the golden cast we’ve fashioned around her broken leg.
And James? And the man under the bridge? What about their kingdoms? Is it too late? No. They are safe in God’s house where there are warm rooms and tables spread with good food. These Kings have never been invisible to God.
What about Rilya? She could still be alive. We must keep looking until we find her. And if we find her and she is dead? Then we’ll take her bones and build a monument to her and bury her with riches beyond imagination. And invite everyone to her funeral to weep for the future of her kingdom.
If there is to be a Second Coming, why would we expect a Christ who is powerful in the ways of the world? Or expect one who will rally the masses and gather armies? Why would we expect some kind of cosmic Zeus? We should, instead, look under the railroad bridge. Look in the corners, closets, and under the bed. Look in the forgotten rooms of the nursing home. In a cage in a poor little girl’s foster home. On death row. There are Kings everywhere. This is where the kingdom is realized. Let us see the Kings there and pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”
Originally published at leapofgrace.com on May 1, 2017.