Posts Tagged ‘ministering to marginalised people’

I was taught a big lesson one evening at our old church. I should never have had to learn it in the first place—I should have known better. But the way it happened has ensured I will never forget what I discovered about myself that evening.

Our service had finished and people were beginning to disperse. As I walked from the chapel itself towards our hall, I saw a man sitting at the rear on the old gas heater we used at that time. This man—let’s call him Alan—was known to us from previous visits to our church. Alan would tend to wander in late, smelling strongly of alcohol, and sit at the back, staring around with bloodshot eyes.

I always kept my distance from him. And this particular night, I realised he could see that. In fact, he could see right through me, I discovered. As I walked past him, I must have given him a less than friendly look, because the next moment, I heard him saying something to me.

‘You don’t like me, do you?’

At first, I had trouble taking in what he had said. I stopped and turned, already feeling embarrassed.


‘You don’t like me, do you?’ he repeated, looking straight at me in a way that gave me no escape.

I walked on, without even giving him the courtesy of a response. I sensed he was laughing at my discomfort—and rightly so, I began to realise. You see, he was right. I didn’t like him. In fact, I despised him for the way he lived his life. Yet I knew nothing about him. I had never bothered to try to find out what his background was like, what had caused him to drink so much, what issues he had faced, what opportunities he had missed out on. Others did chat to him and try to help him—but all I had done was judge him. And Alan could see that clearly.

Fast forward many years to the present. This time I sat while someone shared with me how broken-hearted she felt at the things she had done. As I listened, I found myself feeling just that bit angry with her—and a little self-righteous too. How could she have done those things I would never have done? How could she have let herself and others down like that?

But as full-blown judgement began to kick in, that image of Alan from all those years ago and that question he asked came to mind. And I was silent. Then I heard her own remorseful cry: ‘How could I have done it? How could God forgive things like that?’

Yes, we could both see some answers to her first question. But as to the second, there is no real reason, is there, except that God loves us so completely—enough to forgive us over and over again as we come with contrite, broken hearts. If I felt aghast at what I heard, how much more must God be offended by the things we all choose to do? Yet time and time again, God forgives, God restores, God takes our punishment away—because of Jesus and the price he paid to set us free.

Now that blows my mind. How about you?

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him …Ps 103:12

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