On this last Sunday of the church year, we read the parable of the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the people who have visited the sick, fed the hungry, etc. They go to the “good place.” The goats are those that didn’t act like the sheep. They go to the “bad place.”
Here’s an important point from the parable: neither the sheep nor the goats seem to know what they’ve done. The reason is that Jesus wasn’t offering a behavioral list to earn God’s favor. He was describing the way people live who have been touched by God’s mercy and love.
Living like the sheep in the parable is an outgrowth of a changed heart. Jesus had harsh words for those who did the right thing according to the law but neglected justice, mercy, and compassion. He called them painted tombs. They look good on the outside but on the inside, they are full of bones and rot.
Getting your behavior right according to the rules without letting God’s mercy and love do its work in your heart is like painting a rotten banana yellow and pronouncing it edible. It misses the whole point.