We tend to be optimists as Christians, even the most pessimistic of us. For all our talk of human depravity and divine judgment, we expect converts to swell our ranks and wonder what is wrong if they do not. We pray daily for opportunities to share Christ, expecting those to bear fruit. We expect our churches to be positive agents of transformation in our communities. Our prayer is invariably, "How do we reach our community for Christ?"
I readily confess that I am one of those cynical, pessimistic optimists. I spent much of this morning's prayer time mulling over the calling of Saugatuck Church in this area and pleading with God for specific guidance. We want to impact this community and we want to bring people to Christ. We want spiritual awakening. We want to think God put us here for that reason.
And then my mind turns to Rahab. I reflected on her faith in my last column - it grew not from evangelistic techniques or special services, but through reports of God's power in the salvation of his people. She was chosen of God, and we rejoice that God indeed had a family set apart in Jericho that he would save and use powerfully in the life of his people Israel. Her being a pagan prostitute makes the glory of her conversion all the better.
But she was one, and her family was but one. Jericho was a vibrant, historic town teeming with people. It would indeed be transformed by God, but not in a way we usually associate with the words "gospel transformation." It would be reduced to a pile of rubble and broken bodies, cursed by the Eternal Creator, the fallout of a seven-day series of worship services. Rahab's faith would not start a wave of repentance and renewal in Jericho, but she would stand as a sign against her community, condemning them, even as Lot's family had stood against Sodom.
I suppose our prayers should be nuanced. Should God bless his people with many converts and make us agents of cultural change, we can be happily surprised and bask in the joy of new life in Christ. But there are objects of God's mercy and objects of his wrath (Romans 9:22-24), and we are but creatures watching the outworking of the will of our Creator. Can we be content with just one godly family, and then for the strength and endurance to stand as signs of the coming wrath? In the case of Rahab, we had to be.