Last week a group of women visited our office for a celebration lunch. They had recently been acquitted of the crime of giving false information to a public official – a crime of which they were wrongfully accused. These women were almost certainly arrested because of the work they do and the stigma their job carries in their community; they are prostitutes. Naturally, the police probably concluded, they couldn’t be trusted. But we know them to be honest women, and this, their acquittal, was a happy celebration.
The full story of these nine women and how we came to know them was captured so well by my friend and colleague, John, that I won’t attempt rewrite it, but do I urge you to read it here, because this one is important:
This case prompted a lot of thoughts for me, but most of them can be summed up in this one sentence: radical love is the heart of the gospel.
But radical love isn’t always what I show the world.
It’s far too easy to stereotype people, to put them in a box and tuck it neatly away in a far corner of our minds because prostitution, and the men and women who engage in it, may be less than pleasant to discuss. Maybe you do this because it makes you uncomfortable. Or maybe you feel like the church is too judgmental and Christians are too hypocritical to have a meaningful conversation about these things, so you don’t engage. Or maybe you, like the Kenyan police, would have assumed these women were lying. I might have. Maybe they knew everyone would think that too, because at some point they stopped hoping for fairness from the courts and the police and people around them and expected only more judgment.
But Christ presents a very different picture of what it means to love the world – a picture that I don’t think allows us to continue to disengage based on our own preferences for people or situations. He didn’t change the conversation when it became awkward or avoid tax collectors and thieves and adulterers in the streets. Instead, he sought them out; he offered them something the world did not – grace.
Why? When Jesus stood next to the adulteress outside of the temple court, I don’t think the pharisees saw the same woman He did. Where they saw a throwaway, a sinner they could use to trap Jesus in his words, Jesus saw her – the woman who deserved dignity; a child in need of grace. And after they had all gone away He asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” No one had. And then He said, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin.”
That day, this woman found grace in the words of her savior. But what do society’s rejected most often find from us today?
Is it grace? Is it friendship? Is it love?
We are called to love those we are not comfortable loving. I don’t know who this is for you, but to really do this I think we are all necessarily required to step outside of ourselves, our culture, our comfort zones and abandon the boundaries we have built to make our own lives safe at the expense of all else. The more I learn this lesson, the more I believe that it is only when we are a little bit uncomfortable in life that we are right where we are meant to be.
To echo this point, there is a line in the first book of the Chronicles of Narinia that I love. Lucy has just cautiously asked Mrs. Beaver if Aslan, the lion, is a safe creature.
“Safe?” Mrs. Beaver replies. “Of course he isn’t safe! But he is good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
If God is not safe but He is good, then it therefore stands to reason that a life of following God will not be safe either, but it will be the good life.
And that’s what nine prostitutes taught me about the gospel this week. The call of Christ is to love the world with the same sort of reckless abandon that He first displayed in his love for us. His radical love. And there are not limits to where that can take you. Are you ready to follow?