Fortunately, there are many people like this lady who have lived an empty life of sexual promiscuity, or drug abuse, or alcohol indulgence, and venture into a church looking for just what this lady was after, and thankfully find it. But unfortunately, this particular lady didn't. The congregation acted toward her disgracefully (literally, they showed her no grace). Whether intentionally or otherwise, the pastor decided that Sunday service to preach against immorality. He thundered from the pulpit, "What's the difference between a loose woman and a harlot? At least the harlot has the good sense to get paid for her immorality!" Added to everything this woman was feeling, she was now feeling even worse. This pastor had told her that she was worse than a harlot. Perhaps the pastor justified his tirade as the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But this was not conviction. This was condemnation.
Romans 8:1 ¶ There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps we might have a lady like this lady in our own church this Sunday. Will we treat her with grace? Will we condemn her?
Depite society's obsession with self-esteem over the past 30 years, there has never been more people afflicted with depression. For those with a developed spiritual sensitivity, there is conviction of sin: an awareness of wrong-doing and a recognition of a person's need to be made right with God. Church is God's means for delivering the remedy to these people. The Church proclaims forgiveness through Christ and dispenses the grace of God to the hurting. If you're feeling guilty - get yourself to Church this Sunday and experience this grace. If you feel the weight of shame for not having lived up to the standards that God requires for moral purity - get yourself to Church this Sunday. If you are aching in your soul and don't know why - get yourself to Church this Sunday and experience the healing of God's love ministered through song, prayers, and the preaching of God's Word of Life. If you have overstepped the boundaries of sexual wholeness and are looking for forgiveness, cleansing, love and acceptance, you'll find it in church this Sunday. If you feel ashamed because of your divorce, failure, addiction or abortion, there is cleansing to be found in Church this Sunday. But sometimes the very thing we need is the very thing we are afraid of. And sometimes the ones responsible for dispensing God's forgiving grace are the very ones who commit the error of condemnation.
Matthew 12:7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
May God help us to be a Church which loves, accepts and forgives. Condemning those who have failed is easy. Loving, accepting, and forgiving, though, can be harder to do and therefore requires God's enabling grace. So when we meet ladies or gentlemen like the one condemned by the pastor's tirade I hope they see God in us. I hope they experience the very grace of healing, salvation, deliverance which we have all experienced.