The parable of the sheep and the goats has always scared me. I’m just not “sheep” material. I don’t visit prisons or volunteer in soup kitchens. I’m totally a goat… Right?
Thankfully, Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 can’t be interpreted in a vacuum. We know from New Testament teaching that salvation can not be earned. You could be the most altruistic person on the planet – but you would still far short of admittance to heaven. The standard is perfection. None of us can reach it.
So we know that the sheep are those made righteous by faith alone. But Matthew 25 does reveal what the definitive characteristic of a Christian should be… Compassion.
Why compassion? Because the Lord is compassionate.
What motivated God to set apart the Israelite people, to give them rituals and laws? Why did He deal with their grumbling and stubbornness? Compassion.
Today’s reading in Leviticus is a bright, full-colored picture of His compassion toward His people. First, we see that sin is serious. It can’t be overlooked. It provokes the wrath of our holy God, and his wrath must be appeased. But God, knowing that we are by nature, sinful, provides a way to deal with sin. The sin and guilt offerings are pictures of making atonement for the sin – and ultimately they point forward to the Savior, who will offer the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin.
God is holy; therefore, His wrath is justified. God is holy; therefore, His compassion is sufficient. Compassion for others comes from a correct view of oneself: I am tainted by sin. Therefore, I am in desperate need of compassion! And having received the abundant, flowing compassion from God, I should be compelled to let that compassion overflow into others’ lives. That is the mark of a “sheep.” That is the mark of Christ!