A pastor kicked out his sister for her sins and didn’t know if he made the right choice. Many years later, he found his niece in a precarious situation and faced the same difficult decision again.
“You’re not a God’s man, Thomas! God will not be kind to you!” Thomas’ sister, Erika, yelled as she exited his house with a baby in her arms. Thomas’ shoulders were hunched, but he couldn’t do anything.
Erika had an affair and got pregnant. She came to her brother’s house asking him for shelter. Her husband – now ex – was a prominent member of Thomas’ protestant church, and as a pastor, Thomas couldn’t have her in his home. His colleagues would disapprove, and the congregation would judge him for harboring a known sinner.
Left with no choice, Thomas kicked Erika out, but not without hearing the harsh words coming out of her mouth. “Was she right?” he wondered but had to let go of those thoughts.
“You’re right. This is not the right place for me anymore,” he told him.
The following day, he talked to his mentor, Pastor Johnson, and told him what happened. To his surprise, Pastor Johnson seemed to agree with his decision.
“You have to do what’s best for your family, and having someone like her in the house, considering your five children, that’s not a good idea. Not to mention, your career in church would be on the line. This kind of situation is tricky, but we have to remain righteous. Although, Jesus ate with the sinner… it’s really up to you in the end,” Pastor Johnson advised, giving Thomas too much to think about.
That night, he talked to his wife, Lilly, who had noticed his introspection during dinner. She had been away at a play with the children when Erika showed up, and he didn’t tell her anything until then.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Thomas. It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,'” his wife quoted the Bible, making the pastor feel like a complete idiot.
Thomas knew his greed and ambition had motivated his choice, and it was not right. He only hoped he could make it up to Erika and that Jesus would forgive him for this sin.
Unfortunately, Erika was gone. A woman from church thought she saw her taking the express bus leaving New Jersey. Thomas spent years trying to find her and praying for her and her child’s safety every single day.
About 18 years later, Thomas still carried the guilt of neglecting his sister. He never found her, and no one ever heard from her, not even her ex-husband, who had remarried years ago and was happier than ever.
Seeing his smiling face only reminded Thomas of the pain of betrayal in his sister’s eyes when he threw her out. He had kicked her out when she was most vulnerable, and that was a sin he had not been able to atone for, even when he made it his missi on to visit women’s shelters and help those he could, including one particular woman he met on the street.
He was walking down the street, thinking about his coming sermon, when he spotted the young woman sleeping on the sidewalk with a few blankets. He approached her, hoping to offer her some shelter in the church, and he saw her big pregnant belly. It broke his heart to no end to see young women in that situation.
“Young lady, are you awake?” he said gently, and the woman opened her eyes slowly. She sat up straighter and looked up at him with wide eyes, and Thomas’ heart stopped. She was wearing his mother’s pendant on her neck.
“Yes, pastor?” the woman asked, snapping him out of his frozen state.
“Oh, I wanted to offer you some shelter. The church has a few beds, and we have food. It’s not much, but it’s better than this. I can also take you to a woman’s shelter nearby if you prefer,” Thomas stated, but his eyes were glued to the pendant.
The woman noticed. “Are you looking at my chest? You’re a priest, for God’s sake!”
“No! No!” Pastor Thomas shook his head and raised his arms defensively. “That pendant around your neck. My mother had a similar one. She gave it to my sister, and I have not seen it for…18 years.”
“This pendant was my mother’s. I didn’t know her very well. I only have a few vague memories of her face. She died when I was 3. The nurses at the hospital gave me her possessions when I was sent to the foster system. I’ve had this pendant since then,” the woman said, her hand gripping the pendant tightly.
Thomas closed his eyes, and somehow, he knew the truth. He knew without needing any more explanation or any kind of DNA test. This was the reason he couldn’t find Erika ever again. She had died, and this helpless woman was his niece. The one Erika had in her arms the night he kicked her out of his home.
“What’s your name, sweet child?”
“I’m Pastor Thomas, and I believe you’re my niece. Will you come with me so I can explain some more?” he asked gently, praying that she would say yes.
Luckily, she agreed. She stood up and grabbed her things to follow him.
Thomas took her home instead of the church or a women’s shelter. His wife was shocked, but when he explained the situation, she almost burst into tears and hugged Ashley tight. Ashley was stunned, then she started coughing terribly.
“Sit down. Sit down. You need to rest in your condition!” Lilly suggested and went to make her some tea.
Thomas brought a picture of Erika wearing the pendant, and Ashley finally believed the pastor’s words. She told him and Lilly all about her hard life in the system and how she had no idea who the father of her child was.
“My last foster family kicked me out as soon as I turned 18 because that’s when payments from the government stop, and I’m afraid I’ve not been around the best people. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been a good Christian woman. Will God still accept me? Will I go to hell?” Ashley cried when she finished recounting her complicated life.
Thomas grabbed her in his arms and assured her she would be alright and safe. “You will go to heaven, child. You’ve persevered through a hard life, and God brought you to me because he wants us to help you. We will. We will not desert you,” he promised while Lilly joined them in the hug.
Lilly helped Ashley have a warm bath and put her to bed so she could nurse her cold. Then she went to their bedroom and saw Thomas holding the Bible.
“Darling, are you sure about this? You kicked your sister out years ago. Now, you have a pregnant young unmarried woman in your house?” Lilly asked, raising one eyebrow at him.
“I’m not going to make the same mistake I did long ago. This is God giving me a second chance. I know it in my heart. I believe it, and now, I understand even more how horribly I sinned toward my sister back then. If the church can’t accept me or us, I’ll quit my position. She is more important. Our family is more important. Helping one another is more important and more Godly than anything I’ve done for our congregation so far,” Thomas replied, getting more emphatic as he continued.
Lilly couldn’t have been prouder.
Unfortunately, rumors about the pregnant young woman got around their small town, and it was not pretty. Some people whispered and frowned at Thomas. Finally, Pastor Johnson told him that he couldn’t have him giving any more sermons.
“Perhaps, it’s time to reconsider your position with the church. Having an unmarried, pregnant woman from the streets in your home doesn’t look well. People are talking,” his mentor said, and Thomas looked at him with new eyes and a strange feeling in his heart: disappointment.
“You’re right. This is not the right place for me anymore,” he told him and left the church.
Luckily, he found a new job at another church a few minutes away with different people and different values They were more forgiving and in tune with Pastor Thomas’ newfound views. Soon, churchgoers from his previous church found out and started attending his sermons again.
In this day and age, people didn’t want to go to a place where they would be judged or be around a community that wouldn’t rally to help when someone needed it. They wanted someplace to connect to a forgiving God – a God that could understand their mistakes – with pastors that would help them find absolution without prejudices.
Pastor Thomas was the happiest he had been in years in this new place, and more and more people came to thank him. His family benefitted from the change in many ways, and his niece thrived, thanks to that community. People were eager to help the young woman with their baby, knowing that babies were blessings no matter what.
Eventually, Ashley met her future husband at that church, and Pastor Thomas married them himself.
That day, during the wedding reception, he asked Lilly, “Do you think God… and Erika have forgiven me for my sin, darling?”
“I have to believe they have, sweetheart. A forgiving God is the basis of our faith, right?” she replied, laying her head on his shoulder. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
“Jeremiah 31: 34,” Thomas whispered as he watched his niece laugh and dance with her new husband and their child, whom he adored with all his heart.
What can we learn from this story?
Nobody is perfect, so you can’t judge others. Thomas did something horrible to his sister years ago, judging and kicking her out during her most vulnerable. It plagued him for years.
God will forgive your sins as long as you repent. The basis of faith in God is that you’ll be forgiven for the mistakes you make as long as you regret and atone for what you did. It took Thomas years before he could believe that God would forgive him.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.