Not Quite Like Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat

Quality Control
Photo credit: <a href="">Daniel Zedda</a>

Matthew 25:31-46

When the chosen one comes in glory, with heaven’s army, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be brought to him. And he will sort them out like a quality control inspector sorts out the “on spec” products from the defective ones, putting the on spec to the right and the defective to the left.

Then the boss will say to those on the right, “Come, all of you and be happy with the owner, for you have achieved the goal for which you were made. Because when I was hungry you fed me. When I was thirsty you slaked my thirst. When I was a foreigner you welcomed me. When I was naked you clothed me. When I was sick, you healed me. When I was a prisoner, you came with me.

Then the vindicated will ask, “When sir, did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and slaked your thirst? When did we welcome you as a foreigner, or clothed your nakedness? And when were you sick or in prison that we cared for you?”

And the boss will answer, “The truth is that when you did it to the weak and helpless, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on the left, “You cussed things! Out to the incinerator with you, you messengers of evil. When I was hungry you let me starve. When I was thirsty you let me die of dehydration. I was a foreigner and you built a fence to keep me out, naked and you let me go cold, sick and in prison and you left me to rot.”

Then they also will ask, “When sir, did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a foreigner, or naked, or sick, or imprisoned and fail to do something for you?”

And he will answer, “The truth is that when you ignored the plight of the weak and helpless, you ignored me.” And they will burn in hell. But the vindicated will live forever.

When you get to Hogwarts school for wizardry you get sorted out. But this is not Hogwarts. For one thing, there aren’t four options. Either you pass inspection or you don’t. When you get to the end of that great assembly line in the sky and have put together as much of your life as you are going to collect before you go out the factory door you have to pass QC. And either you’ve exercised your humanity or you haven’t.

Notice what’s not on the list: “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savoir?” It’s just not there. Why? Because it doesn’t matter whether you say Jesus is your Lord and Savior. What matters is what you do. What matters is that you used your life to become fully human. That you engaged with the whole of the human condition. That you did what you were made to do.

There are a bunch of other things people often say are required to make the final cut that aren’t on Jesus’ list.

  • Are you heterosexual?
  • What’s your position on abortion?
  • Do you go to church regularly every Sunday (and on Wednesday evenings)?
  • Do you tithe?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • If you believe in God, did you believe the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • Can you please tell me the date of your “born-again birthday”?
  • Do you believe the Bible is 100% literally true?

Over the years I’ve had people ask me each of these as litmus test questions to determine whether or not I was in with God. But never once has Jesus seemed even the slightest bit concerned with any of the above.

Notice what else is not on the list: “Have you been perfectly good all the time?”

Because of course, nobody is. Perhaps this is why those why make the cut are so surprised. Perhaps they know they just how not perfect they are. Even so, it’s probably their awareness of their own imperfections and flaws that make them more able to show compassion to the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the sick, and the imprisoned.

Take heart then, if you’re not perfect. It’s only human – which, of course, is the whole point.