Can we just talk for a minute about how easy it is for us to think of Rahab as a prostitute, and how hard it is for us to think of her as a redeemer? As soon as we say the name, Rahab, all we seem to think about is the prostitute.
Yet, Rahab being a prostitute had so very little, if anything, to do with her story in the Bible. Except, of course, to unsettle us a little bit and remind us that God uses anyone He chooses to use, no matter what we think of them.
Rahab didn't have to be a prostitute to have a house in the city wall; plenty of non-prostitutes lived in the wall. She didn't have to be a prostitute to have compassion on travelers; plenty of non-prostitutes have compassion on others. She didn't have to be a prostitute to lie to the men of her town about what she knew; plenty of non-prostitutes know how to protect others. The point is...Rahab didn't have to be a prostitute to be used by God in exactly the way that she was.
And yet, she was. A prostitute, that is.
And thousands of years later, that's the first thing we ever remember about her. For many of us, it's the only thing we seem to remember about her. Oh yeah, the prostitute.
Why is it never, 'Oh yeah, the woman who protected the spies in Jericho'? Or 'Oh yeah, the redeemer'? Or even, 'Oh yeah, the mother of the redeemer, Boaz'?
Why is it never the good things we remember about anyone else?
This world is full of persons with reputations, persons who are this or that or the other that we don't agree with. Persons who have made decisions with their lives - either by free choice or out of necessity - that have marked them in one way or another. All of a sudden, no matter who they are or what they've done, they are always and forever that one thing, that one 'wicked' thing we can't seem to get over or look past to actually see a human being created in the image of God with a whole bunch of good and beautiful and holy qualities.
Oh, yeah, he's an alcoholic. She's divorced. He's homosexual. She's had an abortion. He's a cancer patient. She's an abuse victim. And on and on and on we go, defining everyone in our world by things that have so very little to do with them. By things that miss out on the bigger part of their story. By things that lessen and cheapen them and make them easy to write off or forget entirely. He or she is 'just' whatever.
Just a prostitute.
Like Rahab, the stories that we encounter these persons in have little to do, it seems, with the things we remember about them. Rahab could have been anyone else, and we would have called her a redeemer. A hero. A victory. A convert. A faithful woman. Reading purely her story in God's story and how she played her role, we could say all kinds of things. Except that we're told she's a prostitute, and somehow, that became bigger than everything else. So much bigger that 1) we entirely forgot that she is all of these other things and 2) when we're reminded what kind of redeemer came from her line, we're shocked to think such a woman could raise such a man. Even though, as we said, she was that kind of woman herself.
That's why we have to be so careful about the ways that we are willing to define those around us. That's why we have to be mindful to find the stories we're reading and not just the adjectives or descriptors that raise our hackles a bit. Did you know that this world is literally full of holy persons created in the image of God who could show us something good and beautiful about Him if we could just look past those things we find distasteful about them? If we could identify them by their character, and not by their circumstances?
Why does it matter to you that Rahab was a prostitute? Why is that the first thing you think about her, even though it had nothing to do with the way she acted in God's story?
Why is that the first thing you think about anyone?