Guilt by Association

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By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Joshua 2.1-24

Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the book of Joshua in conjunction with this article.

Guilt by Association

It is an interesting phenomenon within Christianity that Christians are thought to somehow become sinful because they have had or continue to have associations with a “sinner”. Yes, it is true, Christians should not fall into the seductive thinking that bad company cannot ruin good character,1 but remaining uninfluenced by the world while taking the good news to an unrighteous world is almost a paradox. Christians seem to be in a perpetual dilemma. Some Christians so desperately want to be separate and apart from the world around them that they build a bubble of personal protection. To use sci-fi language – they engage their force-field – nothing comes in, nothing goes out. Yet, perhaps this Christian fails to realize that even force-fields have a limited life span. So what is a Christian to do?

First things First
Perhaps the first thing is to learn a lesson from two spies. Joshua 2 records for us the mission of two spies, sent out by Joshua to Jericho. While this chapter is brief (being only twenty-four verses) a bounty of lessons can be learned. But we are going to focus on the ability of two men to associate with a known prostitute, to stay in her home and not be label “sinful”.

Allow me to be bold enough to say that there are some circles of Christians who would not only reject these two spies; they would deride and denigrate their character. How dare they speak to a prostitute? Worse yet, how dare they stay at her house? After all, these men went to Jericho “to spy” but men are men and look where they ended up – the red light district. Even worse, we know spies – just look at the movies – they sleep with women to learn information. To read this kind of character association into this event seems almost blasphemous, but yet modern disciples read this kind of character association (or is that assassination) into some of their very own brethren.

So protective and prohibitive are some Christians that they prevent worth-while conversations and conversions from taking place. According to the Apostle Paul, we should not build these barriers; we are to actively engage the world around us regarding the Good News. He tells us to participate in the lives of the people around us, not put up a force-field.2

Engage the World
Because the spies, as Jehovah fearing men, were willing to enter into a place of ill-repute, they received protection from those who wanted them interrogated and killed. How many of today’s Christians would choose death and fail in their mission rather than survive and succeed through the association of a known sinner?

But perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned is the absolute need for Christians to be willing to associate with known sinners. Is it not interesting to learn that though Rahab is a sinner, she is willing to protect God’s people and God’s people in return protect her? But protection is not the only reciprocal. Because of Rahab’s willingness to serve godliness, she is found in Matthew 1.5, this is part of the lineage of Jesus. While it is perhaps considered an interesting tidbit within the heritage of Jesus, the reality is: how many “Christians” would hide their heritage, because somewhere back there a “sinner” entered the blood-line?

It is vitally important for disciples to be non-judgmental. If those spies and been condemnatory toward Rahab the story would have been different, perhaps they would not have been successful. But instead, they accepted her hospitality and negotiated a contract with her and in so doing saved not only her life, but Scriptures seem to indicate her soul.3 Do we, as Christians, value people?

Life is filled with scary moments. While matured adult Christians sometimes provide a cheerful laugh and give comfort to children who are scared of a thunderstorm, some of those same matured adult Christians are afraid of the thunderstorm of taking the Good News and going into the world.4 Yes, disciples walk through the valley of the shadow of death, perhaps more now than any other time in American history. But why do some of us fear the evil? Those spies went into a dangerous place, returned with a message of confidence and God gave them the victory and helped save a soul in the process. What are Christians afraid of? May we have the trust in God to deliver us from evil, protect us because He is with us, because His word guides our pathway. And may the Lord give us the ability to use our minds and our bodies to engage in the world around us while not being afraid to speak to outsiders.


  1. I Corinthians 15.33
  2. I Corinthians 5.9-10
  3. Hebrews 11.31; James 2.25
  4. Matthew 28.19-20