My husband told me this during one of our family devotions. I had that thought in the back of my mind—I just didn’t know how to express it. Now he conveyed the thought perfectly. As a Bible worker, my husband has the heroic yet daunting task of going out into the streets of the urban jungle, knocking on doors that slam in his face, striking up conversations with strangers, and discovering the ones who want to know God.
When he got the Bible work job in Georgia, we were excited. We had our moving day marked. We were packed and ready to go when our landlord called to tell us the current resident had pushed his moving-out date back. So our landlord provided a temporary place for us to live for two weeks until we could move into our home. Disappointed, I tried to prepare myself for the hassle of moving—twice.
Upon arrival at the temporary apartment, our neighbors stepped out to introduce themselves and welcome us. People in Georgia are friendly! I thought. The welcome was nice, but it wasn’t fun living out of boxes and eating off plastic plates and with plastic forks for two weeks—not to mention combating a temporary roach problem. Still, I knew we were supposed to be there. I knew we had been delayed for at least two reasons: *Mike and *Stacy.
“Do you mind?” Mike would ask as he held his lighter and cigarette up. Mike, a very nice and gentle young man, would strike up conversations with my husband as he smoked. They talked out by the porch a couple of times for much of the evening while I was inside caring for the baby. Mike lived with a young lady, Stacy, his ex-girlfriend. I never met Stacy, but one time while she was in her car, she waved at me; I waved back. That was about all I knew of her.
A couple of months after we moved into our permanent place and settled in, my husband visited Mike. Stacy was there, too. It turns out Stacy had wanted to get to know God better and find a church home. She was excited about starting a Bible study with my husband and, since that meeting, has been a faithful student.
Last night at their Bible study, Stacy expressed what had been holding her back. “I want to study the Bible and know God, and I want to go to church, but I drink and go to bars,” she confessed. “I know Christians will judge me for drinking—that’s why I haven’t been to church. But people at the bars accept me the way I am. That’s why I go there.”
My husband looked at Stacy sincerely and said, “You know, Stacy, Christians should be more like drug addicts.” Stacy understood. “Yes, they should,” she agreed. “They need to accept people just as they are,” my husband said. After saying this, a wave of relief came over Stacy. I think maybe for the first time, a Christian had understood her—had put her worries, angst, and confusion that had built over the years into words. And through his words, he let her know that he—a Christian who went to church—was accepting her just the way she was—as a drinker, a bar hopper, a live-in ex-girlfriend, but mostly, as Stacy—God’s creation.
Accepting the Outcasts
I think of Jesus, how He accepted the outcasts of society. He befriended the prostitutes, healed the lepers, and dined with the tax collectors. He called ordinary fishermen to be His disciples. Jesus let a woman wipe his dirty feet with her hair in a time when it was unacceptable for women to touch men in public, let alone wash their feet. He invited a convicted thief to come to paradise with Him before they both breathed their last. All of those outcasts were God’s creation. And the outcasts today, like Stacy, are too.
I think of my baby girl. Would I quit accepting and loving her if she rebelled or sinned? Of course not! I would not accept her behavior, but I would accept her. I would love her no less in her sinful behavior than if she were a well-behaving but still sinful Christian. God is the same way with His creation, His children.
Jesus’ whole life, even up to the time of His death, was about reaching out to sinners. Not only did He accept the outcasts and sinners, but He also loved them. He got to know them, and He promised them eternity in heaven if they would believe in and follow Him. Many of them did. He came to save the lost. He came to save all of us from sin: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV).
Fishing for Souls
Today, Stacy is excited about going to church with us. She doesn’t care what denomination we are. She wants to go where she can get to know God, study His Word, and be accepted just as she is by fellow believers. I pray our church will welcome her.
I think of Christ’s words: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Let’s fish for lost souls by loving them as they are.
* Names have been changed to protect identity.
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Vanessa Pham writes from South Carolina.© 2002 - 2023, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.