Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ignoring Rahab

Not too long ago, my wife and I attended a conference in another city. One morning, as we were leaving our room to catch the elevator and go down to breakfast, we were met with a sight we did not expect to see - a young prostitute waiting for the elevator. She was in her early twenties and looked very tired. Her makeup was smudged and smeared. Her long brown hair was a bit dissheveled. It was clear that she was not given the time to fix herself up before she left. While we stood there, she did not look up from her cellphone. Perhaps she did not want to meet our gaze.

 I must admit, I stood there with my wife and felt very awkward and unsure. Something inside of me said to acknowledge this young woman with at least a "good morning" but I didn't. I remained painfully silent. The elevator doors opened and we all got on it. Nothing was said by anyone. When it reached the main floor, she got off and then so did we. She was gone. So too was my opportunity to just treat her like a human. To acknowledge her as a person.

Even now, over a week later, I still feel ashamed. Not for her and what she was, but for me and what I wasn't. I was not the least bit Christ-like. Jesus loved prostitutes. They were drawn to Him. Why? Because He offered them grace, mercy, and love not silent judgment. Where was my compassion? Scriptures tell us that the world will know His followers by their love, so where was mine that morning?

In Matthew 21:31 Jesus even states, "Truly I tell you, the the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." He loved the repentant over the religious. I wonder how many religious people will get their holiness in a bunch when they see prostitutes entereing the kingdom of heaven before them?

Jesus even has a prostitue in his genealogy. There in His family tree was Rahab, who was described in scripture as a "zônāh" or harlot. Yet she is worthy enough to not only be listed in the lineage of Christ but she's also mentioned three times in the New Testament. She is spoken of for her faith (Hebrews 11:31), her hospitality, and her mercy towards Joshua's spies. She even converted and her statement of belief was, "For the Lord your God is God in heaven and on the earth below."

While I know some of Rahab's story from the Old Testament, I knew nothing of the young prostitute on the elevator. I have no clue as to how she ended up where she did. I don't know of her childhood, though it probably involved some sexual abuse and shame. It could also stem from poverty. I don't know the details that made this young woman vulnerable to prostitution, but I do know that she is now caught in a cycle of sexual violence and assault. 40 million women worldwide are caught in some form of sexual trafficking including pornography and prostitution. The average age of a prostitute is 14. Orphans are also 50% more likely to get trapped in sexual trafficking than non-orphans. Pornography fuels this industry that now brings in billions of dollars and makes more in profit than those of Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined. (A side note, anyone who says that pornography does not hurt anyone is deceived. We can choose to be either a protector or a predator. Choosing to look at pornography makes one that latter).

I did not speak to the young woman and, for that, I am ashamed. But I do pray for her now. I pray mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. I pray that others will. I pray that loving, Christ-like people will be there to show her His tender mercy and grace. She will have to be seen as a child of God, made in the image of God, loved by a God who gave His only Son for her, and not just as something shameful and sinful. I pray that someone is the gospel for her in a way that I was not. I pray that, if there is a next time, and I encounter another young woman like this one that I see her as Christ sees her, love her as Christ loves her, and that I don't remain silent in my fear of reaching out to someone who is lost, broken, hurting, and desperately in need of Christ.

How much could one small act of grace make in another's life?

I truly believe that God had put her in my path for a reason. I didn't do what I was called as a follower of Jesus to do. I did not step outside my comfortable box. But I learned this lesson: I cannot be silent to those who need a Savior.

Ministries that work to end prostitution, sexual and human trafficking:

International Justice Missions (
Agape International Missions (
Compassion 2 One (
Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (
Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings (
Covenant House (

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