While Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. Acts 10:44
This morning, reading this piece of Scripture I realized that in some ways my view has shifted. In my very close circle of family and friends, there are several who are just breaking my heart. They are aware of this and continue to do it with no regard for my feelings and yet, I have no trouble loving them.Taken out farther, by watching TV, reading any sort of “news” and simply listening to conversations around me, I’ve begun to realize that there are groups of people that I just simply do not love. I don’t like them or understand them. To be completely frank some of them just make me angry.
Looking at those feelings in light of this Scripture I realized that there isn’t one single person I know, that I have actually met and spoken to, who is a part of any of those groups, who makes me feel that way. Hm… So do I love my neighbor? Yes, the actual person, yes.
In this passage the people closest to Peter are shocked that those Gentiles (read that word dripping with scorn and distaste) are being touched by the Holy Spirit. (To be fair the “astonishment” may have been at the crazy huge power of the Holy Spirit but that’s not how I saw it this morning and given some of the discussions between Paul and Peter I think my assessment holds a little water. ) Those Gentiles. Now you fill your those people word, those dog owners, those hunters, those vegans, etc. etc. Most people have some group that just gets on their nerves. Frankly I have a few but it’s the group mentality, the agenda that irritates me, not the people.It makes me feel better to realize that my aggravation is ancient. I have brothers and sisters in Christ dating waaaaay back who turned their noses up at a whole group. It’s fine to turn our noses up at an offensive agenda. We are called to discernment, to avoiding things and even people who would invite us to sin. I used goofy examples on purpose so as not to illicit angry responses but the truth is the agendas I hate are all things that go against God’s plan and will for His people.
It’s a version of hate the sin and love the sinner. I want to love my neighbor and to be fair, I want my neighbor to love me. I do not want to invite hatred but my very love for my Savior is a huge red flag invitation for people to judge me and assume they know me and all of my opinions without ever having shaken my hand or spoken a word to me. The whole idea takes on a different look when we place ourselves in the position of neighbor, doesn’t it?It’s okay, even important, to rage against the things, the agendas, beliefs that offend God but as for the individuals, those people, every single one is our neighbor and like it or not, we are called to love them.