I know a couple who attend my church who came to know Jesus while they were living together and not married. They had a daughter together, so they couldn’t easily dissolve their family while they worked through the new conviction of sin. So, within a couple of weeks, they married.
Another man I know, who also happens to know and love Jesus, smokes like a chimney. He was already a smoker when he became a believer, and he has continued to smoke to this day. He also was a drug addict. Over time, Jesus healed him of that addiction. He’s holding out hope that Jesus also can help him with the cigarettes.
And I can tell you more stories. Even my own. Though I met Jesus when I was relatively young, I was already experimenting with words and drinks that might have embarrassed a sailor. Before I could quit all of that, I met Jesus.
Grace doesn’t wait until people are cleaned up to grab them; grace gets a hold of person and suddenly they are in the kingdom of God. They have to sort through the details, all of the messy, dirty details, with Jesus later.
Rahab the harlot found herself the victim of this drive-by grace when two Israelite spies were on her roof and the Jericho police were at her door. She had heard of Israel’s God and knew of his power, and when confronted with His truth she believed. In that moment, just a minute or two in kingdom of God, her first act of faith was a lie.
“The spies? Oh yeah, they were here, but they left.”
I don’t know about you, but I wish the gospel were a little less messy. How great it would be if Jesus would give us a list of his commands, help us meet them, then usher us into the simple, easy life of the kingdom. It would be easier to know who believes and who doesn’t. It would definitely be easier to explain to people what they are agreeing to when we ask them to believe.
It also would look a lot like we were cleaning up our own lives.
In his book Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur says this is one of the primary lessons that Rahab can teach us.
She is not a lesson in how to better ourselves through self-improvement. She is a reminder that God by His grace can redeem even the most horrible life.
CS Lewis describes this brilliantly in his chapter of Mere Christianity called “Nice People or New Men.”
If you are a nice person-if virtue comes easily to you beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.
But if you are a poor creature-poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels-saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion-nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends-do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) he will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all-not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)
It might be easier if the kingdom of God were a little less messy.
But then again, I probably wouldn’t be there if it were. And neither would you.
The kingdom of God is messy so that we all can find our way there through the grace of Jesus.