Monday, February 14, 2011

Bible Storytelling: The Gutter by Craig Gross

Valentine's day may be a highly commercial holiday, but it has its origin in the life and death of a Christian martyr, and God's romantic love for His bride should be the standard for all romantic love. Craig Gross, founder of XXX Church, a ministry that evangelizes porn conventions and hard to reach places known as "the gutter" wrote an inspiring book on radical, love inspired evangelism. I don't always agree with his theology, and I don't always agree with his application (witnessing at porn conventions would certainly vex my soul and may violate God's standards of holiness, but God judges callings and Gross's ministry bears fruit), but his book above all things reminds us of God's love for the lost, the ugly, the down and out. The book is out of print now, but it contains a heart touching retelling of the story of Hosea and though its lengthy, I include a portion of this Bible storytelling here as a reminder of God's redeeming love. It is well worth the read and I don't hesitate to recommend the book to you. It will touch your heart for the lost and remind you that the kingdom of heaven is made of zeroes, less than nothings, screw-ups: gutter people.

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It's the story of a man of God, a God-chaser named Jose. Jose married his first love, and they soon had a child together. But as time passsed, this newlywed wife became restless. The honeymoon was over; now their marriage had moved into more of a routine and was no longer blossoming with newness. The day-in/day-out sacrifice of mothering children was taking its toll, and her mind began to escape back into her past.

See, before she'd married Jose, she'd spent time in a sexual gutter. And now that gutter was looking pretty good. Jose knew about her past, but he loved her in spite of it, and he loved her still when she began to slip back into her old behavior. She began to seek fulfillment in the illicit and fleeting affection of an adulterous bed.

Soon she had another baby, and then another, neither of which were fathered by Jose. But the extra children didn't stop her--her wanderings in the night became more frequent. Each night after tucking her children into bed, she would slip out the back door and into the gutter, ready to sell herself to the highest bidder.

Jose was essentially alone, left to be a father to children that weren't biologically his, but he lovingly took up the task. In the mornings, he prepared them for the day, and many times as the boys finished breakfast, their mother would stumble through the door, exhausted from a night of hedonistic seduction. Soon she quit coming home altogether.

As a husband, I can't imagine this. How could he allow her unfaithfulness to continue? How could he allow her to peruse the streets, a lustful lion looking seeking prey? If it'd been me, I would have put my foot down and taken control. Wouldn't you? Her prostitution and need for illicit gain only led her into slavery; she could not escape from the shackles of selfishness that kept her in the gutter. The chains of compromise gripped her so tightly she no longer considered the value of a husband and loving children.

She walked the streets each night to the marketplace to prostitute herself, to climb onto the auctioning block so men could bid for her affection. Jose sought God and saw her behavior as an invitation to the gutter, so, confused but obedient, Jose responded to God's call and made his way to the Red Light District. He didn't know what he was going to do there or what to expect, and when he finally arrived, what he saw crushed him. Imagine the pain and the embarrassment he must have felt, seeing these men bid for his wife.

The man of God stood side by side with men of the world as they groped and placed bids for his beloved. And then he did a strange thing.

He placed a bid.

I know. It doesn't make sense. Why would he bid to purchase what already belonged to him--especially with the way she'd treated him and their children? To the gutter-blinded mind, it makes absolutely no sense, but from God's perspective, looking into the gutter, it's just what was called for.

As the men beside him sought a one-night stand, Jose sought his bride's faithful hand. "Ministry" in this environment would confuse the religious. This is not the type of outreach they teach in Bible college.

[. . . .]

Jose stood nearly defeated and outbid. Wanting to finalize the transaction, he placed one last bid--all he had with him--fifteen dollars. The religious voices were dry from yelling. Raspy, ear-piercing, hate-filled voices filled the marketplace with judgment. The surrounding onlookers had to be shocked that a godly man was bidding on a whore. Of course, they didn't know it was his bride.

Prematurely aged by the gutter, the once-attractive young lady of earlier years had become worn and faded. But Jose wasn't bidding on her looks; he was bidding on her position. And he won. He bought his own wife at the auction of whores--for fifteen bucks. He sacrificed his pride and his money to bring her home--not as a slave, not as a prostitute, but as his wife, the lady of the house.

Jose's story can be repeated many times over. It applies to the Christian and the non-Christian, to the Jew and the Muslim ... to you and me. But while Jose's act was truly an example of the deepest kind of unconditional love, it was nothing new, God's always been involved with take His love to the gutter, to the point of sending Jesus to the gutter of a garbage dump in order to create a bridge for mankind to get back to God.

- Craig Gross, The Gutter pp. (64-67)

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There is much more to this amazing story, both in the book of Hosea and in Gross's book The Gutter. Read it. May God's amazing, romantic, redeeming love rekindle your love for Him this Feb. 14th.

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