“Tex, we’ve got a lot of street folk coming, and we’re building relationships with them, but we don’t have any prostitutes. Now, Jesus loved prostitutes! So, we need to find a way to connect with some. What we need you to do is to help arrange a meeting with some prostitutes.”
Needless to say, as Tex Sample told this story to a room full of United Methodist clergy in West Virginia, raucous laughter exploded.
There is an uncomfortable absurdity to the notion of a seminary-educated theologian and minister being sent out by his church on a quest to find some prostitutes they might be able to speak with. And at the same time, it is exactly what we are supposed to do. That fact is not lost on any of us. But the culture of most of our churches would cause a lot of raised eyebrows if we even suggested such a thing.
I laughed out loud and thought, “This is why Tex Sample is my favorite contemporary theologian.”
And then I wondered if I would ever be requested to go out and find some prostitutes. And I chuckled to myself.
Truth is though, I would love to be approached by a parishioner with such an off-the-wall request because that would be a person who gets the gospel. Jesus didn’t spend his days hanging out with the cream of the crop. Jesus spent his days with working class stiffs, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, people who had been scorned by society, rejected by the church, and who have lived as outcasts for as long as they could remember. Jesus touched the untouchable, defended an adulteress from the self-righteous, and sat at common tables with sinners and thieves.
If we are truly following in Jesus’ footsteps we should be forging relationships with the people who aren’t usually associated with church-goers. If we are carrying the gospel of Jesus forward, then we need to be hitting the streets… and the back alleys with it.
I couldn’t help but spend my dinner break pondering what it would be like if I were put in the same hilarious position Tex had found himself. And that’s when I realized something about myself: I don’t know any prostitutes.
I know what you’re thinking, “Pastor, that’s a GOOD thing.”
But is it really?
Sometimes it seems as though the overwhelming majority of people I carry the gospel to are people who already know it. As Christians, we do have a responsibility to each other and we must tend to one another in order to keep the body of Christ strong… but we can’t become narcissistic about it, spending all our time only paying attention to the body of Christ.
We must be willing to take the same Good News that has liberated us as believers and carry it to people who are still being held captive–people who do not yet know what it is like to live in the grace and mercy of Christ.