ESSAYS, FEATURED — BY THE MERRY MONK ON SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 AT 5:27 AM
- Jane’s Addiction
I’ve been thinking about whores, church and Jesus lately (not necessarily in that order).
There’s a story in the Bible about a prostitute who just had to get some time with Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). She wanted to get close to him so bad that she went to a dinner put on by a religious bigwig.
Think about that scene. Hooker hygiene must have been atrocious back in the year zero. So you have this stinky whore who crashes the party of a priest who is probably trying to impress all his churchy friends by having the people’s prophet over for a meal at his house. Imagine the stares and the whispered comments. Imagine the condescending tone of the servant sent to show her the door. Imagine this woman’s determination to put up with all these religious pricks so she can weep and pour expensive oil on some preaching carpenter’s feet and wipe them with her hair. Imagine the smell of hooker stank mixed with the fragrant mixture from her alabaster flask.
What was it about Jesus that attracted her? Maybe she saw him treat the drunks, outcasts and the diseased with dignity and she wanted some for herself. Maybe it was because he told her she was clean in spite of all evidence to the contrary and it gave her hope. Who knows for sure. But one thing is clear, this woman wanted to be with Jesus bad and the priest was a hindrance, not a help.
I feel like that a lot of the time… a whore in church.
Why is it that the people who claim to follow Jesus have created churches that hookers don’t feel comfortable in? They were certainly comfortable around him. I tell you what, you show me a church that can’t keep the whores away and I bet you Jesus is in there. If you find a place like that, let me know. I’d rather be in a room full of forgiven sinners who love God than at an uptight priest’s house any day.
Don’t get me wrong, not all churches are repulsive to us whores. Christians get a clue from time to time. I recently came across a quote from Eugene Peterson (he and God wrote The Message). Peterson was talking to NPR’s Guy Raz about how his experience working in his father’s butcher shop impacted his idea of church. (No, it didn’t have anything to do with slaughtering sheep.) Peterson’s dad treated everyone with respect, including the prostitutes:
“The brothel was just about two streets down from our shop. And there was always talk on the street about the whores. But when they came into our store, people knew their first name, they treated them with dignity.They were in a safe place. Later, that translated for me into a congregation. When you come into a sanctuary, it’s a safe place.”
A safe place. I used to have a safe place. I experienced it in a small church for eight simple, glorious years. That church is gone now and I’m mourning the loss. While I don’t feel comfortable around a lot of other Christians, I felt at home there. You know what made the difference? We were all whores and we knew it, but more than that, we were Jesus’ whores.
St. Augustine is reported to have said, “The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.” Yeah, Jesus loves whores so much he married one. You know, bad things happen when the Church forgets she’s Jesus’ whore bride.
First, this bad religion has a deceptive way of lulling us into a false sense of security. We believe all the right stuff and do our best to avoid our religious community’s “big sins” so we figure we’re not as bad as all those sinners on the streets. It’s dangerous to live up to our own selective standards while forgetting God’s law of love. I forget who said it, but it’s true, “Self-righteousness is like bad breath. Everyone knows you have it except you.” Whores don’t have this problem. They know they’re nasty.
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many…” (Luke 7:47). If the Church would remember that she’s a whore, she’d get over herself and her “righteousness” and start obsessing on Jesus’ righteousness. But we can’t stop there.
Seeing that we’re bad and he’s good only deals with the first half of the problem. We also need to see that Jesus’ righteousness is 100% free and ours for the taking. The whore and her Husband are now one flesh. “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven…” (more of Luke 7:47). Believing that we’re made clean by union with Jesus, despite all evidence to the contrary, strikes at the second half of the problem.
When the Church forgets she’s Jesus’ whore bride, she’s not only lulled into a false sense of security, she also loses her ability to love. “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (even more of Luke 7:47). When we forget that we are forgiven much, our love grows cold. That’s why Steve Brown says, “The worst thing you have going for you is your goodness… when you know it. And the best thing you have going for you is your sin… when you know it.” Knowing our sin, acknowledging it as such and turning to God in faith for his free righteousness creates soft hearts of gratitude where once there was only stone. We love him (and others) because he first loves us. Get that backwards and you get loveless religion.
Lack of love leads to a multitude of sins, including creating whitewashed tombs and calling them churches. They’re pretty on the outside, but they’re full of death. No wonder the prostitutes don’t darken their doors. They can smell the stench miles away, and the last thing they need is more stank.
Sorry for the rant. I’m just really sad about losing my safe place.