A decade ago noted evangelical author Phillip Yancey wrote a book called What’s So Amazing About Grace. As the title suggests, it was about that monosyballic word – grace… the freely given and unmerited favor and love of God.
Yancey opens the book with a story told to him by a friend who worked with the poor:
A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter – two years old! – to men interested in kinky sex. She made more money renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. For one thing, it made me legally liable – I’m required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.
At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.
What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled towards Jesus, not away from him. The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers. What has happened?
Yancey’s sweep is too broad – there are so many “down-and-out” who do find their love, comfort, and grace in the arms of churches. But not enough. That should be a greater conviction to the church of Jesus Christ than fighting against abortion, gay marriage or any other “social issue.” Paul said it well – you can do anything but if you don’t have love your work is useless.