Do you know the difference between condemnation and conviction? Our friend, Fran, is learning a lesson on that topic through a relationship with a new woman in her church, Sally.

Trying to include her in the group and make her feel welcome, Fran has invited Sally to be a part of her Tuesday evening Bible study group. But from the beginning, Sally has been critical about the church and the group in small and subtle ways. Everyone senses that Sally isn’t real happy with the way things are done.

Talking with another woman in the study, Fran says, “Yes, I know Sally was a bit like a wet blanket last Tuesday, Ginny, but God has brought her to our church and we need to be patient and loving toward her, don’t you think?”

They talk about what they can do to reach out to Sally, and Ginny says, “I just hope she doesn’t destroy the sweet spirit we have in our group, Fran. We’ve got the most wonderful sisterhood and I just hate to see it harmed.”

As she hangs up, Fran thinks about Ginny’s words. “Where do you draw the line, Lord?” she prays in an impromptu way to Jesus. “I’m assuming you want us to try to help her, but if she does indeed continue to be critical and unkind, are we supposed to just endure her even though she injures our fellowship?”

The next Tuesday evening is pretty much a repeat of the first. Sally’s judgmental spirit just keeps coming through—in her words, her body language, and her attitude. The more Fran tries to be kind and caring, the more she feels this critical spirit from Sally.

After the third Bible study with Sally, another friend, Betsy, calls Fran: “Fran, our Bible study is just not the same anymore. I dread the evening as soon as I see Sally. I’ve prayed about it and asked God to give me a right attitude toward her. But Fran, she’s really ruining our fellowship.”

Betsy has simply verbalized what Fran has felt herself. There is a noticeable change in the group. No one seems eager to share; everyone seems anxious to leave. It’s just not the same. But Fran still feels that if they had the right spirit toward Sally, they could change her. “Lord, please help us to reach her, to be the kind of women she expects us to be.”

But that heavy cloud of condemnation still hangs over her head. What to do now?