One of the great truths of scripture is that God does not deal with his children through condemnation. There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. So, if we’re feeling condemned, it’s either because we’re allowing someone else to condemn us, or we’re condemning ourselves.

God deals with us through conviction and, as soon as we obey, that guilt feeling goes away. But conviction is always specific and clear. Condemnation, on the other hand, is vague and foreboding. We feel like we don’t measure up, but we’re not sure what to do about it.

Fran has been dealing with a new woman in their church, Sally, who has managed to bring a condemning spirit to Fran’s Tuesday night Bible study group. Through a conversation with one of her pastors, Fran sees that while she is required to love Sally and treat her kindly, it is wrong to allow her to interfere with the fellowship of the group and destroy the sweet oneness they have. So she has decided, after much prayer, that she must ask Sally not to be a part of the group.

“Lord,” she prays, “I need great wisdom in how to do this. Please guide me.” She decides to buy a gift for Sally and take her to lunch after church one Sunday. Sally accepts her invitation, and after the meal is served, Fran gets out the few notes she has made to help her choose her words carefully. She begins by telling Sally how difficult this is to do, but she is convinced it is necessary and right.

And so, with as loving and kind words as possible, Fran acknowledges that the Tuesday night group doesn’t seem to be meeting Sally’s expectations, and it might be best for her to drop out of the group. In spite of Fran’s carefully chosen words, Sally does not receive it well.

“I knew it,” she says, “you people are just like every other church I’ve been in. You don’t want to hear the truth and you don’t want to do it God’s way.” After a few more choice accusations, she abruptly departs from the restaurant.

Fran feels terrible. “Lord, surely there was a better way to do this,” she says. But she recognizes that sometimes it’s not possible to tie a bow on every package, and she will have to leave the results in the Lord’s hands. Sally belongs to him, and only the Lord can reach her. It’s sad, but true.

Fran leaves the restaurant feeling sad about the encounter but knowing in her spirit that she did the right thing.