Once we were having a small prayer gathering with some friends. Just before we began praying together, in came a husband and a wife that we had never met. They had been invited by someone else in the group. The man, who I will call Matthew, was very drunk, and his wife had this: been-through-war, can-somebody-please-help-me, I’m-dying-inside look on her face.
As we prayed together, Matthew decided to chime in. His was a drunk prayer that went on for over ten minutes. He prayed some of the strangest things. God, protect us from the Klingons. God, I really want a Jolly Rancher right now, will you bring us some Jolly Ranchers? God, please move my bananas to the dog house.
After the “Amen,” everyone looked at me. What will the pastor do? Thankfully, I didn’t need to do anything because a woman from the group, full of love and situational intelligence, offered Matthew a cookie. As the woman was giving him a cookie and entertaining conversation about Klingons and such, five or six others went over to his wife and begged for insight on how they could help the situation.
This little interaction, this way of responding with love and no-condemnation first, became one of the most transformative experiences I have ever witnessed. To make a long and wonderful story short, the kindhearted offer of a cookie led to a tribe of people coming around the couple and their two young children, which led to a month of rehab in Arizona – including flights and personal visits to and prayers and support offered at the rehab center by church members, which led to sobriety, which led to a restored home and marriage, which led to Matthew becoming a follower of Jesus, which led to him also becoming an elder in the church.
~ Scott Sauls
This story had a happy ending. Church folks offering love and help to people they had never even met. They were not even church members. Instead of separating and gossiping they embraced, loved and helped.
But suppose the story did not have a happy ending? What if Matthew had continued on his destructive road and become abusive and a danger to his family to the point the wife was forced to leave? Did that make the church’s response to their situation wrong? Of course not. I bet the wife would have felt safe in her ability to separate from a dangerous situation due to the support of the church.
Our command and mandate to reach out and love our neighbor is not dependent on the response of the neighbor. It is our response to the gospel, God will deal with the results.