But the husband then decided he was a woman. He began dressing like one, putting women’s clothes and makeup on. He decided he was going to have the operations so he could fully become a woman physically.
The wife desperately tried to talk him out of this and convince him otherwise, but she could not. She still loved the man she married and they had been happy together. She loved their children. She would not leave him, and didn’t think it was right to do so.
You’d think this was hard enough for her. Sadly not.
The worst thing was how her church reacted.
She was socially excluded, ignored, snubbed, rejected and treated as if she was party to this and complicit in it. That it was somehow her responsibility. She was judged and condemned by her church – at her moment of absolute need.
Forget the fact they were Christians, most decent human beings wouldn’t treat a person in that way given similar circumstances.
That people who claimed to love, serve and follow Jesus did this was just awful.
I felt disgusted.
It’s not the first story I’ve heard like this either. It continues to astonish me that some Christians see themselves as above everyone else, beyond reproach. That because they’ve reached a level of maturity or status in a church they can do God’s job and sit in judgement.
Is judgement, condemnation and rejection really a way to love someone?
Let’s look and see what Jesus did in those circumstances.
The best example is the woman caught in adultery. Pharisees bring her to Jesus wanting to hear His judgment on her, trying to trap Him or catch Him out. They are all set to stone her for what she has done, but want to hear Jesus’ perspective.
So what does he say?
“Let they who are without sin cast the first stone”
That quote excludes everyone outside of Jesus. Including me.
Let me make clear I don’t claim any moral high ground over the people in this church who snubbed this woman whatsoever. Or over anyone. I’ve got no right to throw stones (even though I may have on occasion – which I’m not proud of).
But the way they treated her does upset me. It should upset us all.
It’s just so out of sync with how God wants us to live and serve others.
It gives out a completely false impression of Jesus.
All it does is confirm what lots of people already think of the church and Christians. That we’re a bunch of hypocrites who sit in judgement on everyone – and that does make me angry.
The way of Jesus is about unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Not condemnation.
Truth in love?
Too often ‘telling the truth’ in love is used by Christians as an excuse to judge. They claim they say something out of love, but they are in fact sitting in judgement.
Something that Jesus tells us not to do.
Do you honestly think how this woman was treated was right? Or that Jesus would have done the same?
I don’t know why people are so surprised the church is shrinking, why people are leaving the church so much.
Not when we hear stories like this.
In scripture it actually says there is ‘no condemnation’ for those in Christ Jesus.
It doesn’t say :
“There’s no condemnation…as long as long as they believe the right things, don’t sin and live in a way that’s acceptable to us”
When Jesus said to love one another, He didn’t say
“Love one another…conditionally, as long as you believe all the right things and live the right way all the time”.
None of that is there.
Nobody in this world has the right to claim the moral high ground.
We all make mistakes, do things we regret – me included.
We all need to humble ourselves, to ask and receive forgiveness.
Indeed, I – all of us – need to forgive the people in this church who’ve acted this way. I must remember I make my own mistakes too (as my close friends will testify). I must ensure I do not sit in judgement here, but show grace and forgiveness to those who’ve hurt this woman.
But that doesn’t mean this shouldn’t upset me. Or make it right.
Jesus, the one who did have the right to claim the moral high ground, doesn’t do that. He humbles Himself. Not sitting in judgement.
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”.
There is a word of instruction and correction there.
But there is no judgement.
Just love, grace and forgiveness.
So let’s never think ourselves better than anyone, no matter how much we achieve or how mature we are in faith.
Truth is, though others mess is usually more obvious to most of us, we are all a mess before God.
Jesus didn’t throw stones. So neither should we.
What’s your initial reaction to this story?
What impression do you think it gives of Jesus and the church?
Do you think the way this woman was treated was loving or judgemental?
How would you react in the same situation?
What areas do you need God’s grace and forgiveness?
James Prescott is a writer & creative exploring social media & the messy but divine journey of life. He blogs regularly at James Prescott.co.uk & is a regular guest blogger at bigbible.org.uk and other sites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.