Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Prostitutes and People

I want you to start today thinking about Rahab, the woman in the walled city who aided the Israelite spies and by doing so, saved her own family. I want you to think about Gomer, the woman God led the prophet Hosea to marry as a symbol of His holy love for His people. And I want you to think about how quickly, when you hear these names, your mind races to "prostitute."

It's fair. God tells us in His story that's what they are. But have you ever noticed He only really tells us once?

He tells us in the story of the spies that in that city, there was a prostitute named Rahab who helped His people survive, escape, and return to capture that place. From that first introduction on, she is known simply as Rahab. He doesn't start calling her "the prostitute." When the army of God reaches that place and they remember her by the scarlet rope, nobody cries out, "Oh right! Somebody go get the prostitute." No, the Scriptures tell us that Rahab and all those in her household were saved by her faithfulness.

Because God was there for Rahab. Not some nameless prostitute.

Gomer is only mentioned really at the beginning of the book of Hosea. God instructs His prophet to marry a prostitute as a symbolic union, and Hosea then tells us that he chose Gomer. He never even directly calls her a prostitute. And nowhere else in the book is her prostitution recollected. There's plenty of talk about our whoring around with other gods, but we hear nothing more of Gomer. And we know her by name.

Because God was using Gomer to illustrate His love for us. Not some nameless prostitute.

I chose the prostitute because it's easy to see her story in Scripture, but we all have names for ourselves. Characteristics or characterizations we've heard probably all our lives. Things we think about ourselves when no one is watching. Things we see in ourselves when we look in the mirror. Things we are ashamed to say we are, or have been, or maybe will always be. True or not, I think we all have these things about us that feel like such heavy labels that we'll never get out from behind them.

Are you thinking of yours?

Good. Now I want you to think about Rahab, and I want you to think anything other than "prostitute." I want you to picture Gomer and see something besides a loose woman. Because that's what God saw in them. He tells us they were prostitutes, maybe so that two thousand years later, we would still be amazed that God uses prostitutes. Maybe so that two thousand years later, we would be encouraged that our own filthiness could somehow be saved. Either of those would show us something about God. But maybe He tells us they were prostitutes so that we could identify with them. I know I can.

When we say God is a good God who even uses prostitutes, we still have room to say He won't use us. We still put our own label, whatever it is you're thinking of yourself right now, into an entirely other category and say He may use prostitutes, but He can't (or won't) use us! But if we let ourselves step into the high heels of a street walker, maybe we start to get it. Maybe we vicariously understand what it's like to be broken, dirty, beat up and still used for God. I like to think of these stories as an invitation for me to put myself in a place where God can use me, instead of passively waiting on Him to pick me out of a walled city or off the side of the road. I put myself not in the prostitute's shoes, but in Rahab's. In Gomer's. In this place where these were real people who happened to be prostitutes but were not used simply for that reason. They were used because they simply were, as humans. As people. As persons with a heart and a passion and a faith.

I've never been a prostitute. It's not, pun intended, in my bag of tricks. But I've been a lot of other things and I wouldn't want to be classified by any of them. I wouldn't want to be defined by my descriptors. I don't want to live by my labels. And I don't want God to choose me because I just so happen to be....whatever I happen to be. I want God to use me because simply I am.

And that's the way He does it. When God calls you, He calls you by name. Maybe He mentions what you are, what you have been. Maybe he says that you're a prostitute, but He only says it once because that's not crucial to His story. It's a sidenote of His grace. His story is that He's using you. His story is what He's using you to do. His story is that He's using you to love.

I want you to think of your name. I want you to look yourself in the mirror. And I want you to remember a story that has nothing to do with how you might be described. Consider yourself for awhile and come up with something that extends beyond "prostitute" or whatever your label might be. Think about the way God is really using you in your story.

Think about the way that no matter what you think about yourself, no matter what you think it is that defines you, when God calls you, He uses only your name. He calls you. Not for what you are but simply because you are.

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