Written by M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese
A few scantily-dressed women flirt with passers-by in a dimly lit alley. Some of them strike up conversations and bargain with potential customers, while others wait around for customers to offer them a price.
It’s not an unfamiliar scene to many of us: we’ve either seen it in the movies or witnessed it in real life. In Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal, I saw prostitutes being displayed in glass cubicles—as though they were clothes on sale—for people to pick and choose.
Like it or not, the sex industry is booming because of society’s demand for sex services. So, how should we as believers respond? Or should we turn a blind eye to it?
A few years ago when I was on my graduation trip, I encountered three women, likely in their 20s, on the bus in Pahang, Malaysia. It was about 6am in the morning. They were skimpily dressed and were crying. One of them had a badly bruised face and could barely stand. The rest of the people on the bus either ignored them or stared at them strangely.
One of the ladies approached me and asked in broken English if they could borrow my mobile phone to make a call because they didn’t have any money on them. My friend immediately nudged me and warned me not to lend my phone to them in case they took off with it. But I felt for them, so I decided to do so.
Not only did they return it afterwards, but they also smiled at me and thanked me profusely for the kind gesture. Just before I stepped off the bus, I handed them some money. Later on, I received a call from an unknown number. The voice on the other end was a male’s. He asked me where I was located, so he could “collect them back”. After the conversation, I was pretty sure those ladies I had met were sex workers.
Till this day, I can still remember the look of gratitude on their faces. I believe God was teaching me a lesson about extending love to everyone—regardless of who they are and their status in society (Luke 10:27; Matthew 25:40).
God himself exemplified this radical love by making a prostitute named Rahab part of His plans for Israel. In Joshua 2, we read about how she helped the Israelite spies escape. In return, God saved her entire family. He loved her and later, gave her the status of a well-respected married woman (Matthew 1:5). She is even listed in Jesus’ lineage! (Matthew 1)
Rahab’s story and transformation shows us how God does not look at our background and status. He is interested only in our faith and obedience. So, if God treats these individuals with the same grace and mercy that He treats us, who are we to ignore or discriminate against them?
Here are four practical ways in which I believe we can respond:
1. Pray for them
Let’s pray that these prostitutes will come to believe in God and find His love and peace in their situations—especially if they are not there by choice. May God give them the means—both physical and financial—to get out of this industry and be able to receive healing.
Let’s also pray that God will open the eyes of those involved in growing and supporting this industry, to realize the evil of the industry and the lives that have been destroyed.
2. Pray for ourselves
We need to also pray for ourselves. May God grant us compassionate hearts to love and care for them whenever the opportunity arises. Even though we disagree with what they do, we ought to love each of them, just as God loves us and calls us to do so.
3. Understand their situation
Most of the time, we react without fully understanding the situations of these individuals. We need to spend time to read about their struggles and find out more about the issues. This will help us better understand them and know how to help them.
4. Volunteer and donate
There are many volunteering opportunities. It could simply be to befriend a former sex worker, provide them with jobs to learn new skills, or to help take care of their children. We can also donate to support organizations involved in reaching out to these individuals.
I try to make the conscious effort to read up about the plight of these individuals and pray for them. Ultimately, our basic response should be that of love. Whether it is a stranger or someone we know personally, at the end of the day, they are our neighbors.
Let’s heed the call from Luke 10:27 and Matthew 25:40 to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.