Text: Exodus 23:4-5, Matthew 18:15-20, Luke 6:27-36, John 18:15-18, John 21:15-19, Colossians 3:12-13
This is a true story.
I invited my enemy to dinner on purpose. There was no applause or great relief or gratefulness on her part. After all, she didn’t know she was my enemy. She didn’t know the words she’d said about me had made their rounds clear back to my ears. She didn’t know how wounded I’d felt by her piercing remarks about my life, my home, my personality, and my portion.
She didn’t know God had set that table for me in the presence of my enemy, and so she enjoyed my wine and my bread, my Brussels sprouts with bacon and pork loin roasted to perfection, my chocolate brownies still gooey from the oven with a small dollop of ice cream. She ate it all up and still left my enemy. Months later more of her words made their way back to me and I planned another dinner, determined to win her affections, her heart, her repentance, or at least the absence of her criticism.
This is a true story, of sorts, but not entirely the way I’ve told it to you. The truer story is that I was the enemy and God was my ever present and gracious host. Again and again, He laid the feast before me, knowing the wounds of words like mine. And He invited me back again, and again, and again. This is the God who loves us.
I have often thought about the small verse that follows Peter’s first denial:
“Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself” (John 18:18).
I think, here was Peter, denying Christ and warming himself by a fire God created. But Peter was not just denying his relationship with Christ. In a way, he was also denying Christ’s Godness. He partook of the hospitality of God in the common grace of warmth on a cold night, and then left the fire as God’s enemy.
We are no different.
There are books aplenty with ideas for dinner parties and table settings, inspirational images and four-course meal plans, but there is no recipe for showing hospitality to those who have cursed you, except one: the imitation of God. With unimaginable hospitality, God creates a feast, and invites all the world—His creation—to partake of it. And He does so in the face of our repeated wrongs done against Him. He invites His enemy to the fire to warm himself. He spreads a table in the presence of His enemies (Psalm 23:5). He rescues the oxen of those who hate him (Exodus 23:4-5). He blesses those who curse Him (Luke 6:28). And on and on. His hospitality knows no bounds.
The story I began with is true of me and it’s true of you, too. We were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). But the story is also true in other ways. There are those who have gossiped about me, who have slandered and cursed and wronged me. Yet God invites me to imitate Him, to offer the hospitality of my other cheek (Matthew 5:39). The world says to stop offering grace, to withhold good until it’s deserved. But the gospel saves the best wine for last and sets a finer spread than every time before.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, tweets @lorewilbert, and posts photos @loreferguson. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.