Beyond Samaria.

Arriving to Toronto, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This trip and convention, I was told, would be much different than the Atlantic City Exxxotica. This was “Everything to do with Sex”  and it would be large still but geared toward couples. I had no clue what that could mean.  All I knew for certain was: Jesus loves people and I was there, in Toronto, at that convention, to share the love of Jesus to people and patrons of the sex industry.

Over the course of three days, we encountered thousands of people. Some were with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Others were with their partner. Still others were alone. There were all sorts of costumes and personality in the wardrobes present at the show. Calendar men (firefighters specifically), Hustler girls wore their booty branded undies and tops, several body-painted ladies wore….body paint, dancers and strippers of the industry walked around in the latest lingerie and pasty fashions, while still others wore the best burlesque they could. And of course, don’t forget “Thong Man”- the 70+ senior citizen who changed his thong outfit every hour- police, Rambo, army, energizer bunny…. I’m sure he has dozens of different thonged outfits. Who knows where he buys them.  Everything pornographic from couples to dungeon had a booth, though still most gearing their audience for couples. But don’t worry… there were booths for tattoos, body-casting art, back massage chairs, travel Toronto, boots, dresses, and even food trucks! Plenty of fun stuff right? I’m not gonna lie… I bought a crepe from one of the venders. No shame at all. It was delicious.

In the middle of all of that there was xxxChurch. Surrounded by adult toys, sex therapists, and lingerie, we had our neon colored hippy-esque booth. We gave the industry girls gift bags, bottles of water, and tanks. For three days we handed out 2,000 Bibles [book of John actually] and 3,000 stickers. The hot pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers were the attention grabbers and hot commodity of the weekend… other than the porn.  But we got attention. We got everything from confused looks to giggles but often immediate questions on what we were exactly.

That is the point.

In an environment where so many people have been rejected by Christians, here we were xxxChurch in all our neon glory, with a 20 foot booth inviting people to ask the real question they ALL wanted answered… Does Jesus really love porn stars? Does Jesus really love… me? Even though I’ve done [fill in the blank]? So many people wanted to know the love we offered freely. The love that was not condemning, judging or critical. Yes we were and always are honest about what we believe about pornography, sexuality, and God however, the first step we try to stick with is just letting people know that Jesus loves them.  No one in that convention hall was less than enough for God. None were less worthy than myself or anyone else. Not one person has done enough “bad” for Him to reject them. That is the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

By offering love and grace first, it opened so may doors for conversations for people to want to know about God. Between theological discussions and debates to confessions of wanting more to honest conversation on desiring God, we were the Church in the middle of a sex and porn convention.  I can’t help but think of Jesus going to the land of Samaria. He had to go to through Samaria even though he actually had another route option. Instead he chose to go to a city Jews avoided to go to a well that no one acceptable would be at during that time of day to speak to a woman who was a known mistress to many. The Samaritans were bi-racial outcasts of society. And even in their being an outcast, Jesus met this woman who was even more of an outcast because of her sexual behaviors. Jesus chose to show love and kindness to this woman. He chose to meet her where she was not ask her to change everything first. After their discussion furthered he offered something more… forgiveness and new life.  The beauty of the story is that Jesus’ love changed this woman, not the woman changing for him first. His love- unconditional, redeeming, perfect love- was this reason she changed her life and started living different. It was the reason she ran back into town to tell everyone she knew about Jesus.  (read John 4)

xxxChurch goes to these conventions to offer that first step. We go to an area most Christians avoid either because they are critical or because they don’t know what to do in that kind of environment. We go to a group of people, though often glamorized, are still largely deemed by society as nothing less than a lay, a mental image to find gratification, and another person to call a name. We offer nothing but love and kindness to everyone in the building. Of course we want people to know Jesus personally, but its not our job to convert. Its our job to be the Church and love of Jesus, and his job to do the rest. At the end of the weekend, I had such joy in my heart. I know many of those people from this weekend’s convention want to know more. They want to find freedom from addiction. Some might seek restoration for their marriage. Some might want to know Jesus personally rather than just a cuss word. Some might want out of the industry. All I know is that there are a few thousand people that can’t deny that they were told and shown a love that is rare. One worth dying for. One worth going to Samaria for. One worth giving everything for.

[title credit to Sue]

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