There’s an old Hebrew story that goes like this: Father Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?” The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his his tent into the cold night air. When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship you.” God answered, “I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?”
I sometimes wonder if the world, forced out of our tent or never let inside, has discovered the truth of love despite us rather than because of us. Forced by the ambassadors of Love to huddle together outside to stay warm and fend off the wild beasts, have we unintentionally done exactly what we were called to do? And yet, in provoking love in that way, have we missed both the depth and the sweetness of loving the stranger who is really Jesus in disguise?
In my 47 years on the planet I’ve experienced more love in the Church than I ever have from the world. But sadly I’ll confess I’ve also found more hurting and hating here in the Church as well. And please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t make any claims to loving perfectly myself. But I do know that’s what I’m supposed to be about and wonder, “What would happen if we made love our guide and let God sort out the judging himself?”