While he is doing this, half a dozen folks start milling around, unsure of where they belong.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The uncertain ones, who do not know exactly where they should line up, hear the commendation of the sheep and step into line behind them. “Surely this is where we belong,” they assure one another quietly. But the Lord leaves them standing.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
“Wait,” one of them finally speaks up. “We certainly don’t belong in that group. Where is the other line?”
Finally the Lord seems to notice them. “I don’t see another line.”
“But there must be!” they all insist with one voice.
"So,” said the Lord, “tell me what line you think is missing.”
Finally feeling a bit more confident, one man stepped up and said, “The one for people who get mad.” Suddenly he realized how that sounded when he said it out loud, and quickly explained.
“I was a Christian for years but things got rough in my life. I couldn’t quite get myself turned around and I—uh—well, I’m afraid I left the church.”
“Yes,” the Lord said quietly, “I know.”
That didn’t even seem to faze the man and he went right on. “Well, brother ________ came to talk to me. I did not like the way he did it. He told me I was wrong and I needed to straighten up my life, that I knew better than that. He made me so mad I just couldn’t go back, ever again!”
“I see,” said the Lord. “You know, he spoke to me about that before he went to see you. He asked for help to say the right things. I’m sorry you didn’t like the way I helped him. And you sister?” he asked, turning to the next person leaving the first man sputtering.
“Sister _____________ came to me and she really hurt my feelings when she told me I should think about the clothes I was wearing. What I wear is none of her business!”
“Actually it is,” replied the Lord. “You see I told the older women to teach young women like you. She risked losing your good will to try to help you, and you have a remarkable lack of gratitude.”
He turned to the next young woman. “And you?”
“The same as her, sir, except it wasn’t about my clothes. I dress modestly all the time and,” she added, pointedly looking to the first man, “I never miss a service of the church. But she had the nerve to tell me I should be careful in my speech. I do NOT use bad language, just maybe I talk a little too much, especially about other people, but I mean no harm! I’m just trying to help.”
“Ah,” said the Lord. “So what did you do then?”
"I told everyone exactly how mean she was to me and how much she hurt my feelings! And you know what? All my friends agreed with me!” she crowed triumphantly.
“So let’s see. You went around slandering her to everyone, is that what you are confessing to?”
The woman’s smug look suddenly disintegrated into one of uncertainty. “Well, so many agreed with me.”
The Lord looked over his shoulder to the line on the left. “The people who did not try to save your soul, who, in fact, urged you on in your sin by refusing to correct you, are right over there with the other goats. You just thought they were your friends.”
Then he looked over the whole group, which had begun increasing in size when the conversations had first begun as many left the left line suddenly seeing a way out. “And the rest of you? Same problem? Someone ‘made you mad” or ‘hurt your feelings?’ And so you are looking for another line to stand in? What should we call it?”
They all stood there looking at one another and finally the first man spoke again. “Well, we could be the ones who get in because someone was mean to us.”
The Lord shook his head sadly. “So how someone else talks to you—even someone who meant well and did their best, and even asked for my guidance in speaking to you—and because you did not like how they did it but got your revenge in slander and then remained in your sin, you still get to spend Eternity with me?”
They looked at one another, hunching their shoulders as if trying to hide, no longer as sure of themselves as they had been.
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “I saw every one of these ‘mean’ people in action. I know their hearts. Only a tiny fraction of them had a bad attitude, and they are over there in the left line where they belong. You might recall Paul talking about some of them in Phil 1:14-18. He didn’t care how those men spoke, just that the truth was being taught. That’s the attitude you should have had. There are a whole lot fewer of them than there are of you. Nearly every person who tried to help you is in this line on the right.
“So--if I can say, ‘well done,’ to you, then get in the line on my right with them. But if I can’t say ‘well done,’ because you used someone else’s actions as your excuse and refused to change, get in the other one, right next to all my people down through the centuries who stoned preachers and killed the prophets who told them to repent.
“You see,” he finished, “there is no third line.”
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matt 25:46.