Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)
TITLE: As I Have Loved You
By Joy Clark
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children fast behind them, whispering that they should not be influenced.
Another angel fallen to the back row, they said. What a pity. And for the moment, in all their
Sunday morning glory, they forgot how they had yelled at their wife on Friday.
"I can hardly believe such audacity," murmured a blonde soprano in the choir seat to the girl next
to her. "After we all know how he got drunk last night, he just waltzes right into church as if
nothing had ever happened."
Behind them, a tenor opened his mouth to say something, and then closed it again. Waltzing was
hardly the adjective to describe his gait; Andy had drug himself in, tear streaked and unshaven;
and fallen in a despondent slump away from the rest of the congregation. They parted willingly
around him, fearful their righteousness should be tainted by even a look.
"I guess his salvation wasn't real," the other girl said carelessly.
This time the tenor couldn't stop himself. "We all fall sometimes, and I think Andy is truly
"I know that, but drinking! That's different Paul. That's not just a little thing..."
"No sin is a little thing," he countered. The girl gave him a sarcastic sigh, and sank back into her
seat, feigning a sudden interest in this weeks special selection.
Still hunched over, Andy looked as though he was completely beaten by an invisible Giant
Despair. Why did he even come to church, when he knew what the response would be? Paul
wondered. A still, small voice broke in.
Maybe he was hoping there would be just one person to accept him, to love him.
Paul glanced up suddenly. Accepting Andy back, with love, would probably make him an outcast
among the majority as well. The choice, as most choices, lay in a fine line between obedience of
God and fear of man. Paul's legs shook insecurely as he rose to his feet. The rest of the choir
craned around to stare at him.
"You got a solo or something?" someone behind him teased.
Focusing on the back row, Paul made his way down the steps as if it was his life mission. Past
the pulpit, the pastor staring at him curiously, past row after row of confused glances and gaping
children, down to the very last deserted section.
As I have loved you, so love one another, and this thought pushed him the final step to sit down
beside Andy. For a very awkward moment, no one stirred, and Paul hadn't the faintest idea of
what he would do next. All eyes riveted upon him, and the still motionless, hunched Andy.
And then, almost more on wild impulse (or was it holy inspiration?) than anything else, he
extended an arm and hugged Andy; in love, forgiveness, compassion, and encouragement.
"I forgive you, as Christ has," he said; and he, the church, was all that Christ had ever intended
him to be, in a single moment.
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