It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people of her city who refused to obey God. – Hebrews 11:31 (NLT)
I grew up in a church where “the sins of the flesh” were condemned constantly. Fornication, adultery, sexual abominations, and prostitution were all inveighed on a regular basis. The hammering in of verses – like, “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10 KJV) – set me on a course of pious dichotomy between flesh and spirit. I believed that any gratification, exploration, or appreciation of the flesh outside the strict perimeters of monogamous heterosexual marriage was in direct contradiction to God’s righteousness. And I believed the bodies of those who engaged in any type of pleasure outside those strict prescriptions were corrupt.
So I was quite stunned when I first learned that Rahab the prostitute was actually a great ancestor of Jesus and a great heroine of God’s covenanted people. Despite the alleged salacious activities of her body, Rahab’s faith in God caused her to place her body in jeopardy in order to assist the inheritance of Israel in the land of Canaan. By faith, Rahab used her intelligence and her body to advance the narrative of Israel’s divine purpose. As a result, even prostitutes play pivotal roles in the story of salvation.
That’s good news for all of us whose bodies have been manipulated by wanton systems or abused by our own recklessness. The God whose bruised incarnation we solemnly celebrate in the Eucharist is the God who redeems faltered bodies as well as faltered spirits.
God, thank you for accepting the unadorned totality of my body and spirit in your service. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.