Reign of Christ Sunday
by Justin Meyers
One of the beliefs that many Muslims and Christians share is that there will be a final judgement.
Many Muslims also believe, like Christians, that Jesus will play a pivotal role in this judgement. This passage in Matthew is one that I can imagine my Muslim friends agreeing with wholeheartedly.
Growing up in the Reformed tradition, I was raised to understand that orthodoxy was paramount. We needed to live right, yes, but more importantly we needed to believe the right things about God.
Living in Oman, I have experienced unparalleled orthopraxy, a desire to do what is right. In Oman, what people do is often more important than what they believe, even as what they believe is critical to their faith.
I’ve lost count of how many of my Muslim neighbors have offered me water, tea, coffee, and dates. I’ve been welcomed into stranger’s homes on more than a few occasions as I have walked the streets of Oman. I’ve seen my Muslim neighbors give a bottle of water to a man working in the hot sun cleaning cars and pay to have their already clean car washed again to give the man a chance to work. When driving with my Omani friends I’ve picked up more hitchhikers than I care to remember.
One aspect of this passage that I wrestle the most with is this, no where does the Son of Man ask the nations, as he separates them, “What do you believe?” As a child I was taught to delineate along lines of belief, but here Jesus separates based on actions. In Oman, I’ve been challenged to make sure that my actions are my confession, even as I proclaim with my lips that Jesus Christ is Lord.
A friend of mine, a young Muslim man, recently said to me, “There is a church about 5K from my house in Kashmir. I’ve never been there. But now I know and love the Meyers family, and they are Christian. I think I will go there this summer and see if the Christians there are anything like the Meyers.” What drove him to meet the Christians near his home wasn’t my orthodoxy, but the love and kindness he has received from my family over the last 4 years.
People often hear our words, or they hear words of people claiming to be Christian, and these words often feel unkind, inhospitable, and exclusive. Yet in this passage from Matthew we read a mandate to show hospitality and kindness above all else. I can’t change what other Christians say and proclaim, but I can give a bottle of water, spend time listening to a man who spends six and a half days a week in a small carpet shop, or welcome my Muslim neighbor into my home. My actions, my orthopraxy, witnesses to my faith in ways words never could. This witness is both to my neighbors and to the Son of Man who will judge all things.
As I try to synthesize my upbringing in the Reformed tradition, my life so far, my time in Oman, and this passage from Matthew, I’ve come up with this: our actions don’t make us righteous, but our actions bear testimony to our rightness with God.
Prayer for the day:
Hospitable God, helps us when we use words as a substitute for action. Guide us when we are tempted to walk by the stranger. Show us your self in those who we consider “other.” Allow our actions to witness to our faith, both to you and to those we meet as we live in your world. Amen.
Justin Meyers is the Associate Director of Al Amana Centre in Muscat, Oman. An ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, Justin pastored in New York prior to serving in Oman. Al Amana Centre, the legacy of the Reformed Church in America’s medical and educational work in Oman, is committed to working for understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians.