Today I was browsing through some pictures for another story that I had written when I glanced upon this one. I hurriedly read the caption, then moved quickly on. It wasn't what I was looking for. But the picture haunted me throughout the day. I normally get irritated if someone writes something as if it were said by God. But, I have done that, so who am I kidding? Later in the day I went back to look at the picture again, and I decided I wanted to write about it. There are some things on my mind that I want to share.
Most of us don't have the misfortune of knowing just what a woman like this goes through when she lives a life on the streets. We can only imagine what it must be like or what she must do to exist there. Television and movies have somewhat opened most of our eyes, so the reality of it becomes a bit clearer. But, truly and thankfully, we sincerely cannot take our imagination far enough to the depth of the deprivation she usually suffers. We just haven't got a clue.
My first thought when I went back to look at this picture was, "I wonder what we would do if a woman like this walked into our sanctuaries some Sunday morning for worship." And, I have a long list of answers that I wish with all my heart that we would do. I can see myself running toward the back of the room as she slinks in through the door. "Come in! Come in!" I call to her. "We are so happy to have you here this morning. Please! Please come sit with me and my family while we worship."
And then, out of the corner of my eye I see Mr. and Mrs. Marvelous Jones rushing over to be introduced and welcoming this filthy woman, trying to make her feel more at ease. As I'm introducing her, the associate pastor's wife steps up, along with her two teenage daughters, to say hello. Yes. I can see it all so clearly, just as Jesus has instructed us to do.
Or would I be the first to wrinkle my nose at her foreign odors that somehow we all recognize? Would we begin to whisper among ourselves, glancing to see where she went, hoping she won't come closer to where we sit? Would we speak to her at all, or would we leave that for the pastor, to do the dirty work, so to speak? After all, that's what we pay him for. Where would our love go when faced with pure and ugly sin in our sanctuaries? Would she feel God's love, or would she see, as usual, man's base reactions to something they don't understand?
It's possible that the real sin in that case would be the sin of those who not only know personally the grace of God's love but are unwilling to extend that same grace and love to one who has not experienced it. What are we afraid of? We know what Jesus would do and what He wants us to do, so what holds us back?
Unfortunately, this scenario seldom, OK, probably never happens or will happen. And, perhaps I'm just being too hard on us Christians, but I doubt it. No matter what she has, or what we think she has done, we must always remember that we may smell better, our hair and clothes may be cleaner and neater, but to God, our sin is just as filthy as hers. We haven't the right to look down our noses at her or think of her as nasty or vile. We have no idea why she is the way she is. We haven't walked in her shoes, as they say. We only know that she needs the loving grace of the Savior just as we do, and we can find opportunities to tell her if we would just step out and say hello and show her God's love through His people.
He never said it would be easy, or even fun. But He has said, "If you love Me, obey me. Do it!" So, the question is, will we?