I invited a not-yet-Christian neighbor to breakfast at our apartment. During the meal, she critiqued the food I served: “How can you only have one kind of jam?” She criticized our home: “How can you not have a sun umbrella on your balcony?” She criticized my appearance: “Why is your hair so greasy?” It was a rough and unpleasant time, and I didn’t want to invite her back.
In that moment, my prone-to-wander heart was revealed. How much do I still desire to have others fill me up, expecting to feel good afterwards—even in relationships in which I desire to share Christ’s love with someone who doesn’t yet know Him?
Who wants to pursue a relationship with a contentious, critical neighbor? Who wants to invite that guest back for more hospitality? Yet as Christians, we’re called to go and make disciples. We’re called to love others, even when we disagree and the other person isn’t someone we might seek to be friends with. In my inability to love—or even like—my neighbor, I have to remember how Jesus responded to me. He pursued me with even “more grace” (James 4:6), invited me to repent, lavished forgiveness on me, and drew me closer to Himself.
In order to love others in the nitty-gritty of everyday life, I desperately need to believe, understand, and apply the life-changing truth that Jesus loves me. In fact, while I was still an enemy, He loved me so much that He died to redeem me. I was extended an invitation to His table, even though I criticized and put Him down and wasn’t yet able to understand what He was offering. His love is based on His gift of grace, not my good behavior at His table.
In the same way that my neighbor hasn’t “earned” another invitation to our home based on her behavior, I haven’t earned my salvation or God’s love. The truth is that, apart from Jesus, I’m as unlovely as my breakfast guest: harsh and lost, only out for my own gain, comfort and pleasure.
So, I will invite my critical breakfast guest back for another meal. As I do, I will ask the Holy Spirit to help me pray regularly for her salvation. I will ask Him to help me count her as more significant than myself, know how to speak truth about Him in a way she can hear, and pursue and respond to her with empathy and love, just as Jesus pursues and responds to me.
While this will be a challenge, I cling to the hope of Christ that it can happen—not because I can do it, but solely because God’s word ensures it. “... He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil.1:6).
This was originally published in The Journey devotional as “The Breakfast Guest.” Holly* serves with MTW in Europe.
*last name withheld for security reasons