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I sat with a friend of mine this week for a few hours. She is dying of cancer. It was a horrible privilege to sit with someone I love so much who is in so much pain.

My friend is not a believer, quite the opposite.

As we sat and talked either side of medicine-induced naps, I knew something was on her mind. We were talking about her life, her death and planning for her funeral which would normally be more than enough to occupy anyone’s mind, but I knew something else was coming.

After a while she turned her head towards me and said “I want to tell you something”.

It’s her story to tell, so I am not going to write it all down here, but she proceeded to spend a few minutes telling me all about her first marriage which she had never mentioned before and which contained all the horrors of excess, hurt, loneliness, abuse, shattered dreams, and suddenly becoming a single mum with nowhere to go.

I had not known any of this about my friend. Ever since I had known her, her husband and her children I had assumed they had always been one happy family.

As she finished, she looked at me and said “There it is. Do you think less of me now?”

My reply was insufficient, and still grows within me. But I jumped straight in with “are you kidding me?! Why on earth would I think less of you?! Your stock just rocketed skywards with me. You just told me a story of survival and thriving against all the odds. You just detailed many dark nights of the soul which you have come through with bells on. I think you are more incredible now than I did five minutes ago…and I thought you were pretty amazing then!”

The problem is this. She is not the first person to have asked me such a question. Because people know that I am a Christian, there is an unspoken (or sometimes spoken) assumption that because they have a past (as I do), and because they carry baggage through life (as I do) that I will somehow judge them.

Something has gone horribly wrong if those who count themselves as non-christians believe that they are judged harshly by those who claim to follow Jesus.

If you count yourself as a non-Christian (ten points for having read this far!) then I want you to know this. Jesus did not make people feel bad because of the lives they lived, and so neither will I. Jesus did not point at others and condemn them for having hurts, pains, mistakes, different views or addictions, and so neither will I. Jesus does not think any worse of you because of your past, and so neither will I.

If you are a Jesus follower (just 5 points to you for still reading this far!) then join me in working a whole load harder to actually represent the person we claim to. A world is watching, and at the moment they are watching the wrong thing, cos it is all we are showing them.

Let’s spread a little more grace.