From the Book of Joshua:
Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Joshua 2:1 – July 16, 2012)
This is one of the things that I find so captivating about the Old Testament: its heroes and heroines are not supermen and superwomen. They aren’t even regular, run-of-the-mill folks. They are often, as here, the outcasts and sinners, the morally flawed, the ethically ambiguous, the folks who were looking out for themselves as much as they were trying to do something good (sometimes a lot more the former than the latter). “A prostitute whose name was Rahab” was as capable of doing God’s work as was a Levite, a priest, or a great military leader.
Furthermore, the manner in which she did the Lord’s work is, to be brutally honest, a bit suspect; at best her motives and her methods were morally questionable. Not only did she allegedly practice an immoral profession, she was disloyal to her city, lying to the civil authorities and striking a bargain with the enemy for favorable treatment for her self and her family. Nonetheless, she holds a place of honor in the story of God’s People. According to tradition, she became a true and sincere convert to the religion of Yahweh, married Joshua, and became the ancestress of several priests and prophets, including Jeremiah.
Recently, a friend quoted a familiar aphorism sometimes attributed to Abigail Van Buren (the “Dear Abby” pen name of Pauline Phillips): “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints.” The story of Rahab is a case in point. To be one of God’s people doesn’t require perfection. One need not be morally pristine or ethically pure; one’s motives need to be immaculate. What is required is faithfulness, not spotlessness. As the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews made note, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish . . . .” (Heb. 11:31)
Human beings are rarely pure in any way and in most things our motives are mixed. God is more than willing for us to come into God’s company as sullied as we may be. In fact, God is not above using our imperfections! C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.” (Surprised by Joy) The story of Rahab just proves his point.
Father Funston in the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.