PASTOR'S PEN: Our actions reveal our true nature

The two ladies were on a mission when they went to the supermarket recently. They made their way to the aisle that sold the toilet paper and placed everything that was left onto the shelves into their overflowing carts.

At around the same time, another lady approached looking desperately for toilet paper but now the shelves were completely bare. The lady saw the overflowing carts of her two fellow shoppers and approached them, asking if she could get just one of the packages for her family.

The two ladies refused. Things got heated and yelling followed, along with some pushing, and then a physical altercation between the parties right there in the store.

The pressure of the coronavirus pandemic brings out the worst in some people.

It also brings out the best in others.

An area church, the Sears Church of God, is providing a very timely service during the pandemic. They are offering to go shopping for seniors 60 and older in the Evart and Sears area.

You don’t need to be part of the church congregation to take advantage of this service. All you have to do is call and make arrangements with the church. Volunteers will pick up the requested items on a designated day and bring them to the person’s house.

“We just want to make sure the elderly in our area have access to what they need from the store during this time,” explained Pastor Joshua Webb.

“They’re the most vulnerable group to the virus and may not want to leave their homes even if they need food or other items.”

What a beautiful thing to do. It started initially with longtime church member Jenny Murray, who had a burden in her heart to help others during this unusual time. It was her idea to use the church’s Facebook page to let people know the church is there to help and it evolved from there into an action plan to do the shopping for area seniors.

This service offered by the church is a practical expression of what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25 in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

At the end of the age, Jesus said, all people will be divided by the holy angels into one of two groups: the sheep who willingly came under the authority of Jesus and the goats who refused His authority and instead served themselves and in doing so put their own desires above the need of others.

Jesus warmly welcomed the sheep into the kingdom that had been prepared for them “from the creation of the world.” And He said why. The sheep had lived out the command of scripture to love others as they loved themselves.

Most of us are familiar with this passage. Jesus commended the sheep, personalizing their selfless acts of services. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink ...”

Jesus goes on to tell the sheep, those gathered to His right in the parable, that whatever you did to “the least of these,” you actually did for Jesus. Now they are being rewarded greatly in their eternal home.

The goats, however, have a very different experience. Jesus also personalized His address to them. “When I was hungry you gave me nothing to eat,” He told them. “When I was thirsty you gave me nothing to drink ...”

The goats, those on the left of Jesus in the parable, protested, saying they had never seen Jesus and couldn’t then have refused Him.

“Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,” He replied, “you did not do for me.”

The goats were told to depart from Jesus “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

It’s more than just the difference in behavior that separates the sheep and the goats, as we understand from the full context of scripture. What separates the sheep and goats is their very nature.

The sheep are those who have been transformed from within by God’s Spirit and therefore reflect the character of God in the way they live. No, they’re not perfect. They are still capable of doing selfish things sometimes. But the fruit of their lives – their basic character – naturally reveals kindness to others.

The goats are those who have not been transformed from within by God’s Spirit. They are like goats, stubbornly going their own way. It’s not that they’re incapable of doing good things for others; it’s just that they’re basically selfish by nature. They put their own needs first and the fruit of their lives reflect this.

Pressure from outside sources, such as the present pandemic, tends to reveal what’s really inside of us. Those whose hearts have been changed by Jesus are usually pretty easy to pick out in challenging times. They’re the ones who are part of the solution.

Those whose hearts have not been changed by Jesus are often easy to distinguish as well during challenging times but for very different reasons.

As Jesus said, a tree is known by its fruit.

In the end, God will either by our Father or our Judge. It’s up to us to choose if we’re among the sheep or the goats. Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, forever welcoming sinners to come to Him to receive forgiveness and to have a heart transformation, literally a new nature.

If we do, we will ultimately be welcomed by Jesus into the kingdom prepared for us from the creation of the world. If we don’t …