As believers in Christ, we are called to shine His light wherever we are. Though we can glorify Him in church, the Lord desires every person beyond those walls to know His love! If we are willing, God may send us into some of the darkest places where His light is needed the most. That’s exactly where I found myself as I traveled to England for ministry several years ago.
The evening I arrived in Manchester, some friends had planned an outreach event in the red light district of the city. I’ve sung and spoken in prisons, homeless shelters, and in churches, but a street corner with prostitutes was definitely not familiar territory! Still, there was a sense of excitement in my spirit. How would the Lord show His glory on this night?
So on that cold Friday evening, four of us drove into the heart of the city and asked for the Lord to reveal His love through us. As we prayed, I saw a face in my mind. She was a young woman with blonde hair and distinct features. I thought perhaps it was just my imagination, but I shared what I had seen with the others and asked God to bring this woman to us.
Finding an empty street corner, we pulled out flasks of coffee, hot chocolate, and sandwiches, and then we waited like fishermen with baited lines. It didn’t take long for women of all different nationalities and ages to step out of the night. They came like fearful children’timid but hungry for some food, a hot drink, and a caring smile. My heart ached as I saw them appear—weary faces caked with makeup, some no more than fourteen years old. Others looked hardened and tough, but it was so obvious that they all were hurting.
I stood off to the side, not quite knowing what to do, when suddenly I saw the face I had been waiting for standing across the street. I recognized her instantly. Her hair was blonde and pulled back tightly against her head. Unlike the others, she wore no makeup and the left side of her face was badly bruised. I was struck not by the bruises, but by the unmistakable beauty I saw underneath. Without thinking, I yelled out, “You are so beautiful!”
This lady whom I will call “Jane” caught my eye and shouted back in lower-class urban British, “No, I’m not!”
With her response, I was able to come closer and explain how the Lord had brought me all the way from America to tell her how gorgeous she was. Not sure whether I was telling the truth or crazy, Jane slowly began to open up her heart to me. She begged me not to judge her.
“I have to do this,” she explained.
“I know,” I reassured her. “Why don’t you leave?”
“He’ll kill me,” she said matter-of-factly.
Wanting to trust me, Jane shared more. “He doesn’t let me wear makeup. He chooses my clothes.”
Partially pulling up her skirt, she showed me more bruises and an old stab wound on her leg.
“I used to believe in God,” she continued, “but that is stronger,” she said, pointing to the ground.
Still I knew something in her wanted to believe. I told her how I had seen her face as I prayed. I explained that God loved her so much that He sent me halfway across the world just to tell her how beautiful she was! Then I spoke of Jesus and how God sent His Son all the way from heaven to earth so she could have a relationship with Him.
However, I knew I couldn’t convince Jane to believe in God’s love. She would have to experience it for herself. I asked if I could pray with her, and she said yes. Putting my arm around her shoulders, I prayed that the Lord would reveal His love to Jane in a way she could understand. After we prayed, she looked up with tears streaming down her face and said, “Don’t stop touching me. God is in your hands!”
I wondered if this was perhaps the first time Jane had ever been touched with love. This precious lady seemed to think she was too dirty to be touched, yet as I firmly embraced her I felt honored to have this privilege. This wounded woman was not worthless; she was chosen!
When it was time to go, she looked panicked. “Please don’t go!” she pleaded. We gave her resources that could help get her safely out of bondage, but we had to leave Jane with the Lord that night. Though I may never know what happened to my new friend, I know she was touched by God’s love and her life will never be the same! (My friends who returned to the red light district never saw Jane again. It is our prayer that she walked into the freedom Jesus had offered her!)
It is our human nature to judge those around us by their outward appearances. We see their present condition, but God sees the pain that led them to that place. We see human failure, but God sees the way to redemption.
When the religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in adultery, they expected Him to condemn her to death for her sin. To their surprise, Jesus judged not the woman, but those who had condemned her!
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7)
The Lord never condones sin. In fact, God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. How He longs to deliver us from the pain we have caused ourselves! Jesus did not come to condemn us but rather to save us (see John 3:17)!
To be able to share the message of the gospel, we must first see as He sees and love as He loves. Just as the Lord showed me beauty in an abused prostitute, He sees beauty in each of us even beneath our scars! May the Lord cleanse our hearts from judgment so He can use us to bring His love and redemption to those who need it most.
Father, forgive me for judging others by their outward appearance. Help me see others as you see them and love them as You love them. Bring Your kingdom through me to those who need it the most! In Jesus’ name, amen.
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