Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
Matthew 25:37-40 (NLT)
The movie Motorcycle Diaries is the story of Ernesto (Che) Guevara’s life-shaping travels across South America as a young medical student. Toward the end of the movie, Che and his traveling companion Alberto are working at a leper colony. A river separates the sick lepers from the healthy nuns, doctors and others who provide care. In the evenings Che looks out over the river at the dim lights shining in the huts of the lepers. It is clear that the river is a metaphor for all that he has experienced on his travels – the separation between sick and well, rich and poor, landed and dispossessed, powerful and powerless, accepted and cast out.
On the last night at the leper colony, they celebrate Che’s birthday with a party on the “healthy” side of the river. Late in the evening Che wanders out to the dock with Alberto and looks across the river. Suddenly he says, “I want to be on that side of river.”
I want to be on that side of river. That sounds like something Jesus would say. Jesus wasn’t about hanging out on the “healthy” side of the river, the side of the “haves.” Jesus was interested in what was happening on the other side, the side where sick people lived, and poor people, suffering people, outcasts and “have nots.”
There will always be times when each of us finds ourselves on that side of river – life is full of challenges, problems and suffering. But if we are honest, we will be forced to admit that most of us are likely not living life on that side of river – at least not continuously.
Following Jesus is difficult; if we are not already on that side of river because of personal circumstances, we are called to follow Jesus there. We are called to solidly stand on the other side of river, side by side with Jesus against injustice and in solidarity with everyone who is oppressed and we do it so that others can taste God’s justice and mercy.
Experiencing real, authentic faith is risky because following Jesus is all about relationships – our relationship with God and our relationships with others on God’s behalf. It’s risky because it requires that we make ourselves vulnerable so that Christ can be seen through us and Christ’s love can be reflected in our lives.
What if we think we’re standing on that side of river, but we’ve actually never left our side?