Notice, in the title of this post that we didn’t say, “We love our neighbor.” The word in Biblical Greek, the language in which the Gospels were written, for love when it refers to our neighbor doesn’t mean what the word love is usually taken to mean in English. It means to care for the basic needs of others whom we encounter, one way or another, during our lifetimes.
If someone is in need of clothing, food, drink, shelter, medical attention or rescue, we do what we can to provide for the need. It doesn’t matter if we like the person or not. What matters is that the need is supplied.
In the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus, in his parable of the sheep and the goats, makes it clear that to inherit the kingdom of God, you must take care of people in need. He doesn’t say you have to believe in him, nor worship him in order to inherit the kingdom as some churches will tell you. No! According to Matthew, Jesus in his parable says that The Son of Man* states that you must take care of people in need. That is the criteria for salvation. That’s what God wants you to do.
*The author of the Gospel sees the Son of Man as a king who will rule. Some scholars do not identify this Son of Man as being Jesus. A careful reading of the original Greek seems to indicate that Jesus’ use of the term reveals that Jesus speaks of the Son of Man as someone other than himself. Jesus used the phrase to refer to a cosmic judge of the earth. It originated from the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. In a passage in Daniel 7, the prophet is shown the future course of history. He first sees a series of beasts arising out of the sea, one after the other. There are four beasts, each worse than the preceding. These trample the earth, wreak havoc, and devastate the people of God. But then, in contrast to these grotesquely formed beasts, Daniel sees “one like a son of man” coming from heaven on the clouds. Unlike the beastly ravagers of earth, this figure is human-like. To him is given an eternal kingdom, the perpetual rule over the earth, with dominion, power, and praise forever, as the beasts are robbed of their power and done away with (Dan 7:2-14). When Jesus refers to the Son of Man, he appears to be alluding to this vision in Daniel 7. Like other apocalypticists from his time, Jesus maintained that there will be an actual cosmic judge sent from God to overthrow the forces of evil and bring in God’s good kingdom. Jesus saw himself as the Messiah who would respond to the political and social crises of his day, including the domination of his nation by a foreign power, by proclaiming that his generation was living at the end of the age, that God would soon intervene on behalf of his people, sending a cosmic judge of the earth, the Son of Man who would destroy the forces of evil and set up God’s kingdom. In preparation for his coming, the people of Israel needed to repent and turn to God, trusting him as a kindly parent and loving one another as his special children. Those who refused to accept this message would be liable to the judgment of God, soon to arrive with the coming of the Son of Man. The Messiah prepares the way for the Son of Man to come in judgement.