Radical Love Transforms

Martin Luther King once said that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Many of us, thankfully, do not have enemies and so may read this quotation as beautiful but irrelevant in our own lives. But is it really irrelevant? What if we more broadly extend "enemy" to mean anyone we look down upon? What if we say an enemy is anyone we don't like or respect? I'm sure most of us could then look around and find someone who fits the bill. I know I can.

One area that we must force Americans to deal with their feelings about is erotic massage parlors. Hundreds of women work in Dallas' parlors, although the exact number is hard to pin down. This is a large industry. Of the roughly 100 parlors, each one has an owner, a management staff of some sort, and, of course, female workers. Prostitution happens here. That is not a secret.

The sex industry and its workers often engender intense feelings in people: disgust, revulsion, anger, apathy. Because of this, those inside the parlors are separated into a different class of people: the others. They are part of a different class of people that we often look down upon, and we do not understand them. The barrier that we have put up between us makes it more and more difficult to see these women as human beings. Over the years, this barrier has turned into a wall as unmovable as Fort Knox. Even so, it can come down at any time when we follow the example of Jesus.

Last night, I was doing some research on Bible verses to be discussed at our volunteer orientation on February 6. I read that when Jesus was here, He didn't sit in a palace. He didn't care about sitting down at a lavish banquet and eating with the "right people". If you had gone looking for Him 2,000 years ago, you would have found him eating with tax collectors, thieves, and prostitutes - all the people who at that time were the most hated people around. I found myself thinking, "Jesus was pretty cool."

These people were despised by Jewish society, and maybe it is true that their actions were terrible. However, Jesus still went to them. He didn't consider them to be a lost cause. He wasn't offended by being with them. On the contrary, he found peace and joy in being around these people. He went to them for many reasons, one being to set an example for future Christians. He wants Christians to deliberately seek out those who are hated today and show them unconditional love.

The Fort Knox wall we have erected between those who work in the parlors and the rest of society can vanish at any time. It disappears when we declare it a relic of the past, walk into the parlor, and simply ring the doorbell. When the door opens, we smile and love the person who is there in front of us. If we are rejected, we walk away and come back some other day. If we are accepted, we love the person as much as we can.

We don't have to like what happens inside the parlors. It's understandable if we don't. However, no matter what feelings we may have about the type of business that happens in the parlors, we are still called to love each person inside them. When we do reach out to them, when we honestly love the imperfect person standing in front of us, hate melts away. We see on the face of the woman who is normally despised something illuminating: relief. Joy. Happiness. And we feel those same feelings inside our own hearts and minds.

Love given freely to someone, even those hated, does not return empty. It does transform enemies into friends. It's the only thing that can.

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