Philip Yancy tells the story told to him by someone who works with the down and out in Chicago. In his book, “What’s so Amazing About Grace?” he writes, “A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her 2 yr old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter – 2 years old! She made more 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, naïve 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 the 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.
There are a lot of good organizations out in the world that do a lot of good things. You don’t have to be a Christian to build houses, feed the poor, or heal the sick. What is it that makes the church different? Grace! Grace is the difference. The world cannot offer grace. This is why we sing the hymn – Amazing Grace how sweet the sound.