What If I Make A Mistake?

Sermon Text – 02.16.2020
 
[Joshua 2:1-7]
 

          One of my favorite places on earth is Cedar Pointe. It’s been a few years, but when I was a little kid, there was nothing better than a day at the roller coaster capital of the world. We went almost every single year, labor day weekend. We would drive down after church, stay in a hotel nearby. Get to the park right before opening, and spend dawn until dusk riding roller coasters. We didn’t leave until they kicked us out. Over the years, other parks have tried to compete, creating the biggest or the fastest coaster. But as soon as they do, Cedar Pointe gets to work to build something bigger and faster. From corn-dogs to cotton candy, From the blue streak to the raptor, from the Mantis to the Millenium Force, and of course the Top Thrill dragster – where we wait for three hours to ride a 15 second ride because it’s the highest and the fastest. Roller Coaster parks are awesome. But for children, the worst part of any roller coaster park, Cedar Pointe included, is the height restriction! You know, “you have to be this tall” to ride this ride. Oh that was the worst as a kid. You’d walk up to that cardboard cutout of a kid holding a ruler with a little stop sign – you have to be this tall. And you’re way to short, so you’re walking on your tip toes, trying to seem inconspicuous, you know that always worked. Aww, not tall enough to ride the ride!

   
       Now I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but I was a really short kid. I was usually the youngest in my grade, and very short for my age. I’ve never been a real big guy, and I never cared – except when it came to Cedar Pointe. And so every year, the night before Cedar Pointe, we’d measure, how tall am I – which rides can I go on. Now I grew up with two brothers and a sister, and my one brother Ben – we were always a very similar height, we looked a lot alike too. And so for years, my other brother Jon and my sister and my mom would go off and do rides, and then my brother Ben and I would go with Dad and ride the roller coasters. And then one year, I must have eaten my Wheaties that year – because I grew, and I was finally tall enough to ride the Raptor. I’d been waiting for that moment for years, because you have to walk past the Raptor to get to the other rides. And so we get to Cedar Pointe, and I pass up my previous favorite – the Blue Streak, and I head straight for the Raptor. And I get there, and I stand up straight – I’m very excited, and my head bumps that little measuring line. I’m in, I am tall enough to ride the Raptor. So I turn to my brother and say, “Come on Ben, let’s go.” And my brother gets all excited and runs right under the measuring line to catch up to me. Now of course there’s that attendant guy who goes, woah little guy, you can’t ride the roller coaster. And being the loving, caring, compassionate brother that I am, I turned to my brother and realized that he can’t come in with me and so I ask, “So, do you want to hold my backpack?”
  
        Now of course, as a child, we don’t understand the height restriction. We don’t get that the weight and height ratio of machine makes it dangerous for people who are too small and might slip out of the harness. The physics of a roller coaster can make it deadly if you aren’t big enough, if you haven’t developed enough. As a little kid you just think they’re being mean at the roller coaster park, they must hate children. We can’t see that we need to grow, we need to be a certain height, to have a good experience. I used to tell my dad, it’s not my fault that I am this way. Don’t they know that? But the truth is, they were not blaming me for being too short, but you can’t experience the ride until you have grown. Now there’s a parallel to our spiritual life that we’re going to talk about in a little bit –  but let it suffice for now that even if it’s not your fault, there are things we cannot experience until we have grown.

 

   
       Now today is week two a sermon series called Old Testament Stories of Trust. Last week we talked about the story of Noah, and we saw that it is God’s ability that matters, not our own. Today we talking about the story of Rahab the prostitute, to talk about making mistakes. And so to set the stage for our story a little bit. We know the story of Moses, and freeing the slaves in Egypt, parting the red sea and then they wander in the desert for 40 years, and Moses dies, and a new leader, Joshua, is appointed. Now the people of Israel are finally ready to enter the promised land. God promised them a new home when he brought them out of Egypt. And so the people of Israel are standing on the edge of the promised land. But, there are already people living in the land, and they worship other gods, and they reject the Israelites. So Joshua is actually sort of a military commander, he comes in and Israel has to fight their way to their homeland, and the first stop is the city of Jericho. And so Joshua is getting ready to fight the battle of Jericho. But before he fights, he sends some spies to scope out the city first.
  
        Now, I don’t know who he sends, it just says, sent two men who are spies, but they are the worst spies ever. Verse 1 says, [read it]. What? Joshua sends them to spy out the city, and immediately they go to a prostitute’s house. That seems a little suspicious, but I’m sure they were just there for the articles. Verse 2 continues, [read 2-3]. These spies are the worst spies ever. First, they go straight to the prostitute’s house. Second, the king knows immediately not only that they are spies, but he knows exactly where they are. I don’t know what the ancient version of the CIA is, but they are terrible at training their operatives. These two men are the worst spies ever. And so the story continues, and in verse 4 Rahab hides the two men. She hides them in the roof and leads the guards off on the wrong direction. Then after the guards are gone, she goes up to the roof and talks to the two men. Basically she tells them, “I believe your God is the real God, and God is with you. I don’t want to be on the wrong side.” Verse 10 says, [read 10-11]. Then Rahab asks the two men, When you take the city, please spare me and my family. The two men agree, and so she lets them out of the city, with a rope out the window and the men escape back to Joshua. Now there’s a lot more to the story of Jericho, and if you get a chance – check that story out. Literally the Israelites march around the city for days, blowing trumpets, and the walls just crumble. It’s a strange, but very cool story – for today but I really want to focus in on this character of Rahab.
    
      Rahab is sort of a tragic character. It says that she is a prostitute, but what we may not realize is that there are several different types of prostitutes. There are the wealthy prostitutes, who have chosen that life, and then there’s the rest of them. Prostitution is and was a form of slavery. It worked hand in hand with debt slavery. You couldn’t pay your debts, you could be forced into this. Now Rahab’s whole family lives with her in her house, and so there’s a really good chance that she was supporting her whole family with her slavery. Now, unfortunately, this issue still exists in the real world. A lot of people don’t realize that. Human trafficking and sex slavery is still a very real thing. Globally, the U.N. estimates the yearly value of the human trafficking industry at $32 billion.[1] Now, because it’s illegal – it’s secretive and so it’s hard to nail down exact numbers. But they estimate somewhere around 40 million people in the modern world are currently slaves. 400,000 of them are in the United States right now.[2] They estimate 17,000 people will become slaves in America this year.[3] That’s 46 people every single day. Here, in the land of the free. A few years ago, people who combat sex trafficking identified one the biggest sex trafficking events that happens every year – the Superbowl. Big event, people drinking, partying in a strange city – very easy to disappear someone. NPR did an article about it in 2018.[4]  Now I haven’t talked about this too much in my time at this church – but the sex trafficking industry and the pornography industry feed off of one another. Prostitution and pornography are a root of evil in our world. And I want to clarify that there’s a big difference between the wealthy who choose that line of work and the great majority who are forced into that world. The men and women in those worlds are usually trapped, they cannot just walk away. I’m not telling you all this to scare you or freak you out. I just want you to see two things – First, Rahab was probably forced into her difficult, impossible situation. And second, this is not an issue of history. This is real world today. Slavery, and sex slavery is not gone, we just hide it better.   
 
 

          Now here’s where it gets difficult for Christians. We take this tragic situation and we start to talk about sin, and brokenness. All humans sin, even unknowingly sometimes. Yet we hear these stories, and we start to wonder – what if sin is not our fault. The whole “sin” situation seems really unfair. It’s not Rahab’s fault this situation she is in. We start to throw around words like “necessary evil” or “the lesser of two evils.” We rationalize, we like to make it okay. And here’s what happens to the story. It goes like this –  God creates humans, but he makes it possible for them to fail. Humans, designed for this world, fail. God gets mad when they fail, but God made them that way, he put them in that situation – so God is being unfair. This is what it looks like to many people. People think, “You can’t blame us for being the way you created us.” You can’t blame Rahab, and tell her, “Prostitution is wrong.” If you’ve put her in a situation where she has to. We take the blame and we try to put it on God – because you made us this way. We look at the world, and we see that we start off good, and then we fail and then God puts us back together. Doesn’t that seem, sort of.. unfair?

      
    If we were designed for a broken world, how can you blame us when we are broken by that world. But here’s the good news – Humans are not designed for this world. You were designed for something better than this broken world. When we fall and break, when we fail, God saves us, God redeems us. But redemption is not a return to the “normal.” We are not going back to perfection…we never had perfection. We start with this world, and this world will fail us. And when we are broken, when we are stepped on, crushed – God calls us to move beyond this world. Don’t go back to the world, don’t go back to the way things were before. They were broken before! God heals us, restores us to something more than we ever were. This life with God, is better than this life, without God. Redemption doesn’t move backwards – it only moves forward.
   
       God did not design you for this world – so don’t settle for this world. Redemption doesn’t move backwards, it only moves forward – so move forward. This world loves to rationalize, to try and make it seem like this world is enough. If you tell a lie for a good reason, does that make you less of a liar? If you kill someone for a good reason, does that make you less of a killer? The world thinks, yeah. We have this whole argument of self-defense that makes it okay to kill someone if you are defending yourself. We make these arguments, these logical statements that make us feel better. But the truth is, these are the actions of lesser beings. These are the actions of the old world. God’s idea is for perfection, a new world. Sin is sin. Always. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Necessary evil is still evil. Don’t settle for that. Don’t settle for the solutions the world provides. God calls us to holiness, which is better than the best the world has to offer. Where there is no necessary evil. Where there is no sin. Don’t settle for this world when God has called you beyond this world.

We look at this life, and we see this whole “sin” conversation, and we have to realize, it’s not that God is saying – “You are so terrible.” God doesn’t look down from heaven blaming humans for acting like humans. Instead, God tells us – you are incomplete. God looks down and sees that we are not ready for the next step. On a roller coaster ride, I’m not blaming you for being too short, but you can’t experience the next step until you have grown.

 
 
We are not designed for this world. Set your sights a little higher. There is, within each of you, the potential for perfection. A desire for something more. We are aware of good and evil, there is this gut reaction to reject evil and chase good. That urge is a sign that you are created for something more. Now, think about this why would God create humans not fully grown? Why wouldn’t he just create us already perfected, why do we have to go through this journey? Well, let me answer that question with a question – why do we create babies as babies? Wouldn’t it be easier, more convenient if children were born all grown up? Why don’t we just pop out 35 year old babies, that have finished school and have a solid job. It’s so much work to raise a child, right? Of course that’s ridiculous. There is so much joy in the journey. A parent guides a child through the mistakes, helps them grow, leads them to a better life. God calls us to grow, because he wants to see us reach that next level. There is joy in the journey. It’s harder this way, the path of making mistakes, but redemption lifts us to a level beyond this world.
 
Last week we asked, What if I’m not the best? And we realized, we can let go of that because we are not the best. But God is. This week, we ask, what if I make a mistake? And what Rahab can teach us is that we make mistakes, but God doesn’t. You are not a mistake. We are not defined by the curse, we are defined by redemption. Two pieces to this and then we’re done – first, Stand with God. There is perfection in our connection to God. Standing in the light is hard work, it’s not easy, it’s not obvious – but it will help us in the ride that’s coming up. Don’t waste your time settling for this world. Rationalizing why this sin is ok, or that necessary evil is necessary – don’t settle, rise above this world. Realize that you were not created for the mediocrity of a broken world – you were created for the perfection of the world to come. Don’t settle, stand with God – and then the next step is to grow with God. Christianity is not a stale effort. Redemption does not move backwards. Every mistake we make in life, can set you back or propel you forward. What we do with the mistakes of today determines what we can do tomorrow. Rahab used her messed up situation, her mistakes in life, and saved her whole family.
 
 

What if I make a mistake? Oh, let’s be clear – You’re going to make mistakes in life. But with the love of God found in Jesus Christ, we can rise above this world, and step into God’s plan for our life. Only a God like ours could come up with a system where every pain has the potential to make you stronger. The world will try to break you – but you were not designed for this world. And so I leave you with this. May you never make a mistake, but every time you do – may you learn from it. May God work his redemption in us, to use the pain of our life to create a better future, a better world. Amen.            

 

 

[1] https://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2056-5-things-you-learn-as-sex-trafficking-victim-in-usa.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/19/us-modern-slavery-report-global-slavery-index

[3] https://www.geoffreygnathanlaw.com/topics/national-human-trafficking-statistics/

[4] https://www.npr.org/2018/02/02/582613447/sex-trafficking-and-the-super-bowl


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