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Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Romans 8:33 (NLT)

A friend of mine, I’ll call him John, tells this story:

John was a pastor of a small church in a quaint village out east. This was the type of town where everyone knew everyone and would give a hand when necessary to help those in need. When my friend arrived in town the small church was in its last stages of life. The congregation was small and largely made up of elderly people. It was considered by some to be ministerial suicide because many a pastor had left defeated and maligned by this demanding congregation. My friend was, in a sense, the last ditch effort to keep the struggling ministry alive.

Although the ministry was hard and progress was slow, things began to change in the small church. Word got out that there was a ‘new guy’ at ‘FirstChurch’ and gave it a try. They stayed on and helped with some of the much needed changes and upkeep in the ministry.

One Sunday morning a new couple came through the doors. The pastor was informed of this and warned. “They are nothing but trouble pastor. He is a drunk and has made quite a spectacle of himself on several occasions. She is suspected of beating the children and their oldest claims to worship Satan! We can’t let them stay. They’ll destroy the reputation of our church!”

John tucked the information away in his mind but did nothing. The couple attended off and on for a time but soon became more regular. The kids rarely came and rumors had it that the kids were threatening evil to the church. There was evidence of an attempted break-in one night, but nothing could be proven. John continued to accept the couple in and often smelled alcohol on their breath as they left Sunday mornings.

One day the husband came to John and asked if he could be the listener for the Bible Club on Wednesday night. His job would simply be to listen to children recite verses. Against the warning of some of the people in his church, John accepted the offer. About six months after this story began both the husband and wife accepted Christ as Savior.

John was at that small church for seven years before moving on. The ministry was growing spiritually and physically when John was called to another ministry in another state. It was a tough decision to leave, but one that John knew was right.

Fifteen years after he left he happened to run into the man who’d taken his place. In the course of conversation he asked about this man and woman. A smile came to the face of the pastor as he told John that even though they had moved out of town, their legacy of faith and caring lived on. Just the week before the couple’s daughter had returned to the small church and asked forgiveness for things she’d done as a youth. She had accepted Jesus as her savior and wanted to be restored to fellowship!

John had tears in his eyes as he told this story. Then he looked at me and said, “What would have happened if I’d listened to those who’d so quickly judged?”

Every day you and I rub shoulders with people who have already been judged because of their economic standing, addictions, sexual orientation or a whole list of standards. As Christ-followers we stand at a crossroad. Will we accept them and risk our reputations in order to offer Christ’s forgiveness or will we stand on ‘principle’ and send them away? John reached out to others in the same way that Jesus did and the results were lives changed for eternity. Many people don’t feel like they measure up because of past or present circumstances. As Christ-followers we are called to reach out to all people with his love.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so hard to accept people who are different than me. Especially those who drag your name in the mud, and mock my faith. I find myself avoiding the very situations and people that your Son sought out. Empower me by your Spirit to reach out to those who need you the most and not judge them. In your name, Amen.

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May 2011
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