One Sunday evening, many years ago in a small conservative church, the Worship service had begun, when in walked a ‘woman-of-the-night’. A prostitute in the church!
How did we know? Well, we all dressed conservatively in suits and ties and the woman in dresses below the knees and tops with high necklines. This woman stood on high stiletto shoes, black fishnet stockings, a miniskirt or maybe just a see through T-shirt with no skirt or trowsers, makeup caked on with a sapatula, huge red, I mean really red, lipsticked lips, and hair all ruffled up… and that is how many people looked at her – from the feet up and then down again.
There was a real pregnant pause as she walked in. Some people set their mouths to catch flies. Others were frozen where they stood. Some men were elbowed by their wives. I mean that the people were in shock which quickly spread to condemnation and then contempt…how dare she come in here. This was church!
I can guarantee you that everyone there, except maybe that visitor, knew and could quote by heart these words,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
But only a few that night would recall the words that follow:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17,18
The woman walked all the way to the front row to sit down. Some people even moved. I was so saddened that night by the initial response of many in that church. I was young and didn’t quite know what to do.
But I was so proud of the Senior Minister – a Spirit filled man – who went over to her at the end of the service and welcomed her.
We never did see that women again.
Initially it had polarised the church. Some were outraged and didn’t want ‘people’ like that in out nice church and condemned the pastor for not kicking her out while others, filled with the Holy Spirit, were devastated that we had responded in this way. But this was in an era where the Holy Spirit wasn’t widely accepted as relevant to us today.
Ultimately this incidence ushered in the teaching of the Holy Spirit and introducing him to this church… once people were filled with the Holy Spirit their eyes were opened to the hypocracy!
I am reminded that Jesus said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18,19
So, let me ask you this: When you see someone who is not like you, maybe is rebellious, corrupted in some way or other, or behaves differently to your acceptable norms, do you condemn them…or do you see them as Jesus sees them? Does your heart break for them? Does it spur you into wanting to reach out into their world and to love them, just the way they are?
How would you respond if someone like the woman above came into our church?
Makes you think, doesn’t it?