From: Good Goats
Being loved as an unrepentant sinner, as Paul was, has often been a healing and life-changing experience for me. For example, years ago my German self-righteousness got set off by the U. S. border patrol. One day, while we were in California a mile from the Mexican border, I was writing outside with Sheila. We saw the border guards catch five Mexicans on the beach. We wanted to reach out to the Mexicans in some way, so we went inside the house, gathered up enough granola bars for them, and went out to the beach. When we arrived, the five Mexicans had their hands up in the air and were being searched. We had just been in Mexico, where we felt overwhelmed by meeting so many jobless people unable to provide adequate food for their hungry families. Thus we understood why these Mexicans were fleeing. Yet the border guards treated their prisoners impersonally, never asking who they were or why they had come. I was so upset at the guards that even though they addressed me several times in a friendly manner, I responded coldly. All I could do was offer the Mexicans our granola bars and apologize for the impersonal way the border guards were treating them.
Arriving back home, I could smell the quiche Matt was making us for lunch. I told Matt what had happened and asked him why he hadn’t come. Matt said, “Dennis, when you came in to get those granola bars, you were so hostile toward the border guards, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere with you.” Matt had spoken the truth. I was right in being angry at how impersonally the guards were treating the prisoners. But I was wrong in hostilely acting out that anger and treating the border guards in the same impersonal way. In responding coldly, even when the guards spoke to me in a friendly way, I had cut off the possibility of influencing their behavior toward the Mexicans. So, once again we loaded up with granola bars. This time, we went to the border guards and apologized for treating them so impersonally. As we ate granola bars together, the border guards eventually shared how they didn’t like capturing jobless Mexicans. However, they need their guard jobs to support their own families. As I asked forgiveness for treating them impersonally, they were able to open themselves to our suggestions for treating Mexicans more personally.
I could hear the truth of Matt’s judgment about treating the border guards impersonally because I could smell the quiche that Matt had baked for us and experience his love that would never reject me. I could also hear the truth of Matt’s judgment because he had been with us in Mexico. Thus, like a defense attorney, Matt understood the “justness” or “reasonableness” of my anger. Being filled with Matt’s love, even as he judged my behavior, healed me and gave me power to repent. It gave me the desire to bring that same love to the border guards as I asked them to forgive me. Thus Matt’s love, as in the case of Jesus loving Paul, was not dependent upon my having repented. Rather, his love healed me so that I could repent and even become aware of destructive behavior that I was previously unable to see, like treating the border guards impersonally.