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Could Rahab Get In the Church?

Mark Twain made me think when I read this statement: "Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." How great is Heaven's favor? An amazing example is found in the life of the harlot/prostitute Rahab. Hebrews 11:31 records, "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace" (see Joshua chapter 2 and 6 for more on Rahab). Because of her faith in the living God, she escaped death and God's judgement when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Not only that, the account makes clear she went into Canaan with the Israelites and became a part of the chosen people. Incredibly, her name shows up in the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1:5! H. Leo Boles wrote that Rahab was mentioned in the genealogy of Christ "because she was brought into the nation of Israel from a depraved and degraded life through her faith in Jehovah" (New Testament Commentaries/Matthew; Gospel Advocate; p 18). Amazingly, Rahab was welcomed into Israel and entered into all the promises God had given His people in the Promised Land. Her name is included in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith along with the likes of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses — all giants of the Hebrew faith! Israel let Rahab in. More important than that, God let Rahab in. God's grace is truly amazing.

Here's a thought-provoking question - would a former prostitute be welcomed into the church where you worship and serve? Could a Rahab get in? I say it carefully, but it is sometimes easier to gain favor and forgiveness from God than it is from some down at church. It is sometimes easier for a person to get into Christ than it is for them to get in the church. I know the Lord adds to His church everyone who places their trust in Christ, repents, and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, 47). But the brutal truth is some church members are unwilling to get past other people's past, especially if that past is an especially "checkered" past. I understand that every person who repents and turns to Christ should "do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20b; Matthew 3:8). I know it takes time to live down a bad reputation and live up-a good one up. What I am addressing here is the ugly tendency of some in the church who sit in judgement on others and who, by their actions at least, deny the Bible's teaching that God's grace can save even the chief of sinners when they turn to and obey Christ (1 Timothy 1:14-16; Hebrews 8:9). We sometimes seem surprised at who God is willing to let in, forgetting that He let us in! I'm not sure who wrote the following but I am sure it ought to make us think. It is called SURPRISE:  I dreamt death came the other night, And Heaven's Gate swung wide. An angel with a halo bright Ushered me inside.   And there to my astonishment Stood folks I'd judged and labeled As "quite unfit," "of little worth," And "spiritually disabled."   Indignant words rose to my lips, But never were set free, For every face showed stunned surprise, No one expected ME. If God has the grace to let the Rahabs in, shouldn't we do the same? Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ