Humanizing the Dehumanized…
For a number of posts now the topic has surrounded “Reaching Rahabs,” the prostituted citizens of our own Jerichos. The question now is, how do we treat the dehumanized and marginalized?
Greed appeals to sex for sale
At her expense, it mirrors hell
A grave inside a human’s mind
They lock the doors and close the blinds
A human life is thrown in a cage
Raped until death, then thrown away
Deeds in the dark the light reveals
And judgment comes when the blood is spilled
They even changed her name
They even changed her name
They even changed her name
This stanza and refrain from John Scott Young’s haunting song, Different Name, conveys a tiny piece of the misery of a prostituted woman. So her pimp can live in the high rent district and drive a new Mercedes she is “raped until death, then thrown away.” Having already robbed her of dignity, to further isolate her and decimate any semblance of her God-given identity, he changes her name to something more exotic and something less––hers. He figures if she forgets who she is she’ll be less apt to escape his control and more apt to continue as his low maintenance slave. Like they’re branding an animal, some soulless pimps tattoo their own names on the necks of their sex slaves so that whenever they look in the mirror, they know who they “belong to.” Devilish!
Humans have names, each with his or her unique identity and destiny. Nobody should be robbed of his or her name. Christopher Heuertz said: “By trying not to over-identify people with their difficult contexts and by calling friends by their actual names when possible, Word Made Flesh communities offer the hope that comes with affirming the distinctive and divine imprint of God in each person.”
Prostitution is not usually a woman’s chosen profession. It’s not because it’s lucrative or they like having impersonal sex with a bunch of strangers. People are predominantly trafficked into the trade by force, fraud, or coercion for which they pay all the dues and receive nothing back but a ravaged body and a tortured soul.
For this reason I prefer the term “prostituted person” over “prostitute.” The former indicates something done to her. It’s not who she is, but what she’s forced to do.
Speaking of “humanizing the dehumanized” there are a number of ministries that do loving aftercare for survivors of human trafficking. One of such Christ-centered homes is Freedom House located in the San Francisco Bay Area. I commend them to you for prayers and donations.
Mutualizing the Marginalized…
“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.” Matthew 21:31-32
“If the Church does not identify with the marginalized, it will itself be marginalized. This is God’s poetic justice.” Tim Keller
Rahabs are people who have been pushed out to the margins of society and refused citizenship in the center with all the rest and the “best.” Remember, it’s a “friendship” quest into which God has invited us. Friendship is a two-way street and is by definition a mutual arrangement. They called Jesus a “friend of sinners,”* which, for my money, implies more than that he was nice to bad people. Even the dregs of his day must have, in some way, brought something of value to the relationship.
If that’s the case with the eternal Son of God, how much more should we sons and daughters of God expect to benefit from our friendships with the Rahabs in our lives! Mother Teresa used to say, “We need the poor more than the poor need us.”
Joshua’s two scouts needed Rahab as much as she needed them. Either would die without the other’s aid. Their relationship was mutually advantageous. They came to her for help and ended up helping her in the process. She saved them then they saved her. To reach Rahabs we have to let Rahabs reach us. In our collaborative quest with God for friends it’s a give and take thing, a certain sort of symbiosis with sinners.
A good place to begin forming mutually beneficial relationships is with James’ advice to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” We can’t very well make friends with people when we do all the talking and giving and they do all the listening and receiving. One of the chief reasons we God-experts don’t reach many Rahabs, or anyone else for that matter, is that we insist on being the sole dispensaries of goodness and truth as though no one else on earth has anything to contribute to us. We assume that a not-yet-christian can’t possibly know anything that we need to know or possess anything that we need to have. If there’s anything that keeps Rahabs from Christ it’s a patronizing and paternalistic spirit.
Christopher Heuertz wrote: “A focus on friendship (with the poor) rearranges our assumptions. What if the resources they have also meet our needs? What if Jesus is already present in ways that will minister to us? What if in sharing life together as friends we all move closer to Jesus’ heart? Friendship is an opportunity for all of us to be enveloped in God’s grace and mercy.”
In our final “Reaching Rahab” post we’ll talk about how when we share God’s love with someone we never how far reaching our influence will go…
If there’s one thing I’ve experienced in the last few years in San Francisco is how the poor enrich my life as much as I hope to enrich theirs. I tell a few stories to that affect in Part Three of The Other End of the Dark.