For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25.35-36
The implications of what Jesus said are profound. In essence, he says, “Wherever you find human need, you will find Me.” Because He said, “I was hungry you fed ME. I was sick and you visited ME, I was in Prison, you came to see ME.” Each condition Christ names is a condition of desperate need. So Jesus tells us, “I take up residence in the desperate.”
We forget this. We forget that the situations that seem most bereft of God are precisely the places where you will always find Him. Where the need is deepest, Jesus is already there.
Now think about this truth in light of how we do church. I imagine all of us have enjoyed great times of worship. In our songs, we cry out, “Jesus, come be with me!” And He does. He shows up. Scripture informs us that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22.3). It’s truly wonderful to be among God’s people and feel the presence of Christ in worship.
At other times, like when we’re in crisis, we fall to our knees and cry out, “Jesus, come be with me! I’m hurting. I’m desperate. I don’t know what to do.” Once again, we can count on Christ to show up. He meets us in our desperation. He is close to the brokenhearted and near to all who are touched by grief (Psalm 34.18). That’s His promise. We can count on His presence.
But if Matthew 25 means anything at all, it means I never have to wonder where Jesus is. I never have to be without His presence. If I want to find Jesus, I can always find Him in human need. He is always with the desperately poor, the hungry, the prisoner and the refugee. You can find Jesus in Soweto, in the favelas of Brazil and the refugee camps of Syria. And in all those places and many more, Jesus is crying out to His church, “Church, come be with Me!”
This is the call of the gospel. This is the cry of our Savior. He is in every orphan child. You can find Him in every hungry belly and every desperate situation. We want Him to be with us but He wants us so desperately to be with Him!
About 10 years ago, I came to the stunning realization that the way I had built my church had led to us being cut off from the living presence of Christ in the world’s most vulnerable people. This was unacceptable. The Church is called to be with Jesus where He is. We have decided to join Him in the margins and we are profoundly blessed because of it. God is still calling to His church, “Come be with Me.”