How to love those who hate you

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Luke 6vs27 love those who hate you
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

We had been in the American South for a week when we came home to note from our AirBnb hosts:

We have a unique cross-cultural opportunity for you tomorrow evening. Our neighbour is having a big 30th birthday party. 

The cultural part is that it is a pig-pickin’ – a Southern US thing. They have a special outdoor oven to roast a whole suckling pig. 

This is something that is a tradition across the American South for big parties. I asked the neighbour, and you are most welcome. 

The next evening just as the sun set, Xylon and I were met by our hosts, Robert and Nate. Together we opened the little side gate and entered the neighbours yard. All around us conversations happened with drinks in hand, lights were strung between the trees, and the aroma of roast pork made me want to eat. 

Father and son walked us over to the table where pork was piled high and covered with tin-foil. With a practiced hand, Robert selected a variety of cuts of meat for us to try.  

We piled our plates high with sides, each of the neighbours had bought, and started talking to Robert about the new job he was starting on Monday. He was going back to pastor a church after doing a different job for a few years. 

We got chatting about what we believed, about grace, about Jesus. 

“I never really understood grace when I was younger,” Robert spoke slowly, gently. “I remember sitting in church a few years ago and listening to a pastor preach. 
I wasn’t even really listening because once you’ve been a pastor for a while you kind of know where most of the sermons you hear are going.
This preacher was talking about dealing with sin in the church. You know the four steps in Matthew 18:15-17 you need to take if someone hurts you.”

At this point Robert started counting them off against each finger:
“Go and tell him – work it out between the tow of you
If he won’t listen – take one or two others to witness
If he still won’t listen – tell the church
If they refuse to listen to the church treat them as you would an outsider or a tax collector.”

How to love those who hate youAnd then Robert said the words that woke him up that Sunday morning when the preacher spoke them, ‘And you know how Jesus treated Tax collectors!’

Robert shuffled the glass in his hands back and forth and quietly said,You know how Jesus treated Tax Collectors? 
Jesus invited them to walk with him daily, he went over to their house for tea, he ate with them, he embraced them, he lived with them and he loved them. That’s grace.

The conversation moved onto other things, and an hour or so later we walked back over to our room to settle in for the night, but I couldn’t get that story out of my head. 

Like Robert, up until I heard that phrase, ‘And you know how Jesus treated Tax collectors!’ I had always believed that being treated like an outsider or a tax collector was the worst thing that could happen. But what if Jesus meant that last step to be the best thing that could happen?

I wanted to work that into my heart.  

I wanted to be the kind of person who is willing to start over with even the most unrepentant people. 

I want to be the kind of person who is willing to offer God’s forgiving love again (and again and again and again, 77 times over) because that is what Jesus did for me. 

Ponder: What has been your experience of Christians or the church living out Matthew 18:15-17?

Prayer: Jesus, I want to be like you. I want to treat outsiders like you have loved me. Amen. 

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