… In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. – James 2:14-26 (NIV)
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What a curious leap, going from Abraham to the prostitute Rahab! Her own story (Joshua 2 and 6) is an amazing act of defiance, risking her own life to help the enemy spies escape. She justifies her choice by explaining the fall of the city will be inevitable, as if she has not just heard the news on the street but might perhaps be something of spiritual person herself. Yet that would hardly be convincing in a movie version – where’s the passion, the deeper motivation? (Nobody’s even mentioned money!) Even so, her clandestine assistance is rewarded, and the two spies live up to their promise to save not just herself but much of her extended family in the fall of Jericho. In the end, she is placed as one of the ancestors of Jesus.
(We should note that in the story, she’s a much more interesting and fully formed character than anyone else, including the spies. Pay attention!)
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A prostitute, of course, can also represent a host of occupations and societal niches that sit far from our own sense of propriety and daily contact. My quietist line of Friends likes to talk about how diverse we are, but all I see is a wide range of notions, rather than socio-economic diversity. Too often, we’re a cross-section of professional social-service intellectuals who, for the most part, have blue eyes. (Not mine, alas.) We have failed to spread our faith to those who have moved into the neighborhoods where we were, and as a consequence the largest Meetings in New England a half century ago – all pastoral – have been laid down. Perhaps if we were more aware of the teaching nature of a pastoral ministry, we could replant Meetings in the economically pressed, immigrant-filled urban centers. Is this what our Cuba connection is preparing for us? Could we even join with Evangelical Friends to launch on this effort? (In Philadelphia, too, Friends closed their Meetings as a consequence of failing to reach out and welcome the new neighborhood when blacks and other ethnic groups moved in. What kind of ministry is that?)
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But now, from a certain experimental Knowledge, and in full Assurance of Faith, can I testify for God, he is no Respecter of Persons, but in every Nation he that feareth God, and worketh Righteousness is accepted of him: For though all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God, wherefore he hath concluded all under Sin, ’tis that he might have Mercy upon all, not willing that any should perish in Sin, but that all might come to Repentance. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)