We are all Whores
Talking about sex in church is usually reserved for special youth group services or great publicity stunts. For whatever reason, American Christians refuse to have a developed theology of sexuality that goes beyond their opinions on homosexuality. In my 30 years of church attendance, there is one sexual topic I have yet to hear about from the pulpit: How much God loves whores.
Prostitution is icky?
Pompous and pride-filled people look down their noses at those who have been forced into the profession of trading sexual experiences for currency. "How could anyone live their life like that?" they gasp in wretched horror. Their pride blinds from the reality of brokenness that exists in this world.
While some choose the lifestyle (like porn stars) others are captured and forced into the life. Some have been sold into the business. Others fell prey to a chemical addiction and now are tangled in the web of do-whatever-I-can to get my fix. The whatever may even involve getting five bucks for performing fellatio in a back alley. It certainly isn't always glamorous. It certainly always is a form of slavery or always feeling trapped.
We Americans don't like to talk about the realities of the world that make us feel uncomfortable. Sex, in general, makes us uncomfortable. Paying for sex or selling of sex is even weirder and the levels of discomfort have resulted in silence for most. Thank God for agencies that are fighting sex trafficking and forcing Christians to talk about the discomfort! We have no problem shouting opinions that are half-baked if we feel comfortable in our positions, but the moment the slightest bit of awkwardness shows up we shut up. It is about to get very awkward.
We Are All Whores
Christians who read their Bible should have come across the theme of prostitution. You should actually come across it a lot! It is one theme that spans both the Old and New Testament. You can find the presence of whores in almost every book of the Bible. The world's oldest profession was not ignored in the unfolding story of God's people. In fact, and this pains me to say it, whore became the defining characteristic of God's people.
God's people are whores.
Don't believe me? Read Ezekiel 16. In fact, we should all read at least some of it now:
But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord God. And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood. (vv. 15-22)
"How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.
The people of Isreal - God's chosen people - whored themselves in such a way that they did not even take payment in return. They wanted to be a whore so bad that they paid others to obtain the feeling of being a whore. Such blatant disrespect is shown to the One who when he saw "you wallowing in your blood, I said to you...Live! (Ezekiel 16:6)"
"But these are the Israelite people!" you say, "They are not us and we are not them!" Certainly we Christians are not whores. We don't even believe in sex! We don't even talk about it! How can we be whores? We are all whores and if you think that the physical act of sex being exchanged for currency is the transgression that angered God, you have some more to learn.
Who loves you, baby?
The broken and hurting need a restorative love. God saw the Israelites when "no eye pitied" them (Ezekiel 16:5). He spoke life into their deadness, he clothed their nakedness, he washed the dirt from their face and adorned them with gold and silver. He fed them, nurtured them and lifted them to a place of great renown among the nations.
But the transgression of whoredom proclaimed upon Israel was not that they went out and had a bunch of sex with strangers. They were whores because they took the gifts of God and began to use them as currency to fulfill a sinful need in their life. The clothes God gave were turned into shrines made to other gods. They began to worship their garments in the same way that they were once worshiping God (setting incense and oil before them; v.18). They even began to sacrifice their children to the gods of the culture around them.
Their betrayal of God had even become a source of pride. They built temples to brag of their abomination and to attract their neighbors. They appropriated the worship of the Egyptians and Assyrians because they "were not satisfied (v.28) with what God had provided. So they traded what God had provided and they sought after more.
God's redemptive and restorative love was not enough so the Israelite's went searching for more, but without the dignity of a whore.
The Dignity of a Whore
The dignity of a whore is directly linked to the fee that he can get in return for his services. It is a socio-economic class system. The better your service the higher price you can charge. Like any other profession, the payment received is the justification for the act. There is always a dignity in hard work and earning your pay no matter the profession. We are wired to work and earn.
But dignity is not always earned. Often times it is bestowed. The fairy tale maiden who captured the heart of a prince is bestowed the dignity of princess-ship upon the marriage of the lovers. Through no act of her own, she became royalty and envied among the people. This is precisely the story of the Israelites. God bestowed their dignity upon them. They did not work for it, earn it, beg for it, steal it, or obtain by any conceivable human method. It was granted to them.
But the Israelite people could not even have this dignity. They were nothing and God made them something and then they sold the something in order to get the more. But the more was actually less. Sometimes that which is bestowed loses its value because it was not earned. The Christian, through no work of his own, has been redeemed. We have been bestowed with a spiritual dignity and we fall into the same trap as the Israelites. The value of Christ's redemption is suddenly less appealing and we trade it, sell it, use it to get something that is our personal possession. We want to feel like we earned it so we can lay claim to having the power to obtain. It is no wonder Paul warned about the traps of legalism.
Do not dismiss the truth in your disgust.
The most chilling aspect of the whoredom of God's people was that they paid money in order to be treated like a whore. I have a hard time thinking through this part of it. It seems so counter-intuitive! What scares me, even more, is this thought: If it is in the Bible then it applies to me. It applies to us. I am a whore. You are a whore. And we pay others for the opportunity to be a whore.
Maybe it is because we desperately want to play God and have just a ounce of the redemptive power that he has. Perhaps it is pride that says we certainly are capable of pulling ourselves up. It could even be a snotty spirit of entitlement and the absence of gratitude. Maybe we just forgot where we came from. I don't know the exact reason why, but I know I don't want to play the whore any longer.
It is disgusting to think about yourself as a whore. It is disgusting to think that we often break the heart of God as much as we do, too. But we must be humble enough to admit to ourselves that we stray away from the love of God for a myriad of personal desires. The theme of prostitution runs through the entirety of Scripture. Maybe the reason why pertains to our hearts penchant longings to act in a similar manner. Maybe our repetitive whoring is what causes Kristal to wonder why the people in the church aren't much different than those who eschew religion altogether.
But dismissing this truth because it makes you feel uncomfortable will also to cause you to miss the grandest truth of all: God loves whores.
God Loves Whores
Reading the first 58 verses of Ezekiel 16 paints the picture of a very angry God. I suppose reading the first parts of many chapters of the Bible reveal a very angry God. But if you stop at the angry diatribe you miss the beauty of the love of a God who just won't quit bestowing dignity on the whore:
"For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God."
Any spouse that finds their partner whoring themselves to everyone in sight has the human justification to divorce, despise, and destroy the marriage covenant that they had once made. But God, not sweeping the actions under the rug in a co-dependent manner, says that he will not only remember the covenant, but he will reestablish it with his whore-bride. The shame of the offense will not go away, but God's atonement and reestablishing of the covenant — we call this grace — will be so grand it will leave us — the whores — speechless and in awe. The grace of God will be so grand that it actually confuses and confounds us!
What a great grace! What a great love! What a great God! We are all whores, but God loves whores. He refuses to let us remain whores, but when we wander his grace is so grand it is indescribable. His covenant is everlasting and he continually bestows His dignity on our unworthy whoring hearts.