Funny thing happened the other day. Not the first time either.I got a phone message from Mary,**  a friend who at times turns tricks for shelter and to fund her addictions. Like others who do this, she also has a faith in Jesus.In a motel a few blocks away, she needed help. I call:

“Hi Mary. It’s Shawn returning your call.”

“Hi Hon, how you doing?”

“I’m good, how are you?”

“I’m good, just getting into the shower.”

“Um…OK. What did you call about?”

“Just wondering where you are right now.”

“I’m at the Ranger. What did you need?”

“Oh, you know…Just wanted to hang out.”

“Um…Mary. Are you thinking of a different Shawn?”

“REVEREND SHAWN?….uh, sorry, um, I was expecting someone else!”

We chuckled together, but she was eager to hang up.In case you’re slow, she thought I was a client looking for sex. She needed money to stay in her room. So there I was, mistaken for a “john”—all from being the friend of a prostitute.

Awhile back, I got a phone call from my friend, Carrie**—a prostitute and crack addict, eight months pregnant. For months I had been chasing her, trying to get her help with medical care and adoption options. She’d been elusive.Finally, she called, hysterical, asking for help. I went to her and sat down with her. She was crying, saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” No money, no place to stay, desperate. She curled up in the fetal position on the bench, put her head in my lap and wept.I said I’d get her food and a room for the night, but asked her to come to a clinic the next day. We walked over to the Carriage. Through a thick Korean accent, the manager demanded cash and it soon became clear she assumed I wanted the room for sex with Carrie. She did a lot of her “business” there.

Again, mistaken for a john! Happens more often than you think. When I walk East Colfax, I look like a rich white guy and often get propositioned.One night, at the Radiant, a drunk guy wandered onto the property. When I offered food, he waved me off, speaking only Spanish. Diane saw him later, same response. Using her limited Spanish, she tried to find out what he wanted: “Que quieres?” He said: “Yo quiero sex!” In case you missed it, that means, “I want sex!” Diane, who gets away with saying things, gave him a good-natured lecture on that not being God-honoring! My sweet wife, mistaken for a prostitute! It’s happened before.

Jesus hung in this world, with prostitutes, in the middle of the mess. I’ve had a sanitized picture of that, all scrubbed up and clean, like He hung with them and they immediately got pious. Now, I doubt that. In fact, I expect Jesus got propositioned. Imagine, Jesus mistaken for a john! Maybe even for a pimp? One day, Jesus is at a banquet when a former prostitute anoints His feet, wiping them with her hair. Horrified, people say,  “Doesn’t He know what manner of woman is touching him?” I expect some were thinking this: “If He lets her touch him so intimately in public, what might have happened in private? Was Jesus a client?” Again, mistaken for a john. Religious people dissed Jesus: “He is a friend of sinners!” No doubt, Jesus wore their accusation as a badge of honor.Jesus was so focused on doing the Father’s will that He didn’t give a rat’s petoot what others thought. My Mom had that. I can still see her, set on an action others didn’t understand; she would just shrug her shoulders and do it, more concerned with pleasing God, than people.

Makes me wonder: Do we at times stop short of doing what God has called us to do because we worry about people’s perceptions? What will they think? How will they view us? What if they think we are something different than we know we are? Jesus would say, “Do what the Father has called you to do and stop worrying about what other’s think.”Also makes me wonder: Do we have anyone in our life who is disreputable or broken enough that we could be accused of something outrageous? Diane and I have a unique call—most everyone we are around is disreputable in some way. But imagine—what if each of us who follow Jesus had just one person like that in our life, a person who raised eyebrows?Maybe, like Jesus, we could be accused of being a “friend of sinners.” What a badge of honor!