The Scarlet Tether – Lessons in Evangelism from Rahab the Harlot

And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.Joshua 2:21

STRIPPERS PROTEST CHURCH.  Okay your curiosity or depravity now has the better of you as did either/or overtake me a couple of days ago with this headline.  Apparently after four years of picket signs and bullhorns, a local “strip-joint” owner near Columbus, Ohio decided he had been worn thin and decided to oppose the local New Beginnings Ministry by staging a protest of his own complete with signage and girls clad in bikinis – right outside the church.  The pastor responded kindly by referring to the owner as a “parasite” and the war rages, except now with throngs of onlookers both applauding and wagging their heads at, well, everyone involved – both those supposedly “clothed in righteousness” and those clothed in, well, nothing at all.

One then ponders. . . Are bullhorns and poster-boards really the best way to spread the gospel message?  Or, is that, after all, what is actually being spread?  In fact, though the first reaction of the majority of church goers across America may indeed be to be appalled at the actions of the strip club owner and workers, perhaps they should be more inclined towards the reaction of “not surprised.”  Why would anyone expect those of the world to act like anything but – especially when those who are supposedly not of the world decide instead to use worldly tactics? That is, that they would strip off their righteous clothing and bare their condemnation and hate above love for neighbor. Yet another example of where hearts may be in the right place, but they apparently feel nothing and heads are no where to be found.

However, many may wonder, what’s the alternative?  I have spent the greater part of the latter three years in the City of New Orleans.  New Orleans is noted for much, but modesty certainly is not of them, particularly when it comes to streets named after alcoholic beverages.  After listening to an international missionary who has done great work in Asia fighting the great evil that is human trafficking and prostitution, local evangelical women were mobilized to do something about life in the Big Easy.  Instead of turning to bull horns and signs (which can be found aplenty during Mardi Gras season with fundamentalists attached), they decided to pray.  And pray they did, for many weeks.  While still praying they made contacts, and through these contacts, they found their way into at least one strip club.  Instead of bringing their Salvation Army battle axes, they instead brought – breakfast, love, and Bibles for strippers who were coming off shift at one of the largest establishments on Bourbon street. This took place in the wee hours of Good Friday night/ Saturday morning.  And would you know, they have been invited back?  There is a great deal more to this ministry and many wonderful things that have taken place with continuing and renewed relationships, but there is just a peek, at what is possible by contacting someone and loving – on the inside.

Then I think of Rahab. Sunday school children everywhere have re-enacted walking around something and blowing trumpets in order for God’s power to triumph, but how many have taken time to ponder the greater part of Joshua 2?  There, in the midst of a pagan city, is a pagan prostitute, who saves spies from Joshua’s army by allowing them to go over the wall with a red rope (or scarlet tether), Rahab even makes a declaration of faith in the God of these invading Israelites, and ultimately, she and her family are spared!  Though there is a great deal more to this story, ultimately I think it is not too much of a stretch to see that the first stones that fell in Jericho, fell from the inside  as a pagan prostitute trusted the God of an invading army.  We also should notice that Rahab will not go away. She will appear more than once throughout scripture and will even find herself right smack dab in the middle of the family tree of Jesus! To quote Martin Luther, it is quite evident that God loves sinners – you see – He even includes them in His family tree!

From the inside out. . . What a novel idea! One may imagine if the Israelites had just decided to blow trumpets without consulting God or venturing inside the walls first they could have blown til they were blue in the face as it were. The Jerichoians might as well have just blown trumpets (or I picture “raspberries”) right back at them.  Thanks to Rahab, Jericho fell from the inside out. And may this be a warning to the evangelical church (even though sometimes well meaning):  If you blow your horns and nothing falls, then perhaps its time to change your tactics.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

Matthew 21:31

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