Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Apathetic to Empathetic

I wish every American Christian could have been at the event about slavery and human trafficking that I went to last week. Believe it or not, several parallels between North Korea and the United States became clear.

No doubt the torture and abuse of individuals in North Korea is unthinkable. We watched a short film that portrays conditions that may be worse than when Hitler terrorized Europe. The multitudes of people involved in this travesty is mind-boggling. At the same time each person is an individual, a person that God knew before he or she was born.

So is each trafficking victim in Montclair, California. There may not be the same staggering numbers, but there are individuals being tortured in equally horrific ways. I'd imagine rape feels the same in North Korea as it does in Montclair. The San Bernardino County's documentary on human trafficking described other abuses disgusting enough to make sleep at night difficult. In addition, I've heard accounts of the horrors related to labor-trafficking victims in Riverside County that equal the torment inflicted in N. Korea. In all these places, there is a similar disregard for human life and dignity. 

We don't want to think about such atrocities happening in our own neighborhoods, but they do.

Another common theme is that until ideology changes, the problems will continue. That's where every single Christian can make a difference. Contrary to a culture that supports the killing of defenseless individuals in the womb, each and every human life has intrinsic value and deserves respect--whatever their stage of development or address. Each person made in God's image also deserves others reflecting God's image to stand up for them.

Matthew 10:41-42 says: 

"Whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

The only thing that makes us righteous is God's grace and mercy. Christ's blood is what covers our sins past, present, and future. If our goal is to go and make disciples, any one of these little ones may be or become one. That's not for us to judge. To be on the safe side, we need to treat each individual in need as though they could be Jesus.

He gave us a story in Matthew 25:34-36 that may drive home the eternal significance of this message.

"The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We will be judged one day. Did we turn a blind eye to one who Christ holds dear? Or did we do something--even offer a cup of cold water--some hint of kindness that displays value for human beings in the midst of their suffering.

That's what takes a society from being apathetic to empathetic. Stepping into the suffering of another and doing something about it. If enough people take up that challenge, it just might eliminate trafficking in North Korea and here.

The thought can be overwhelming for sure. But it needn't be. In The Message, Matthew 10:42 says: "This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice."

We don't have to take on a country or even an entire city. If enough of us help one person in one neighborhood, Christians can make a difference.That cup of cold water might be offered in the form of a prayer for a victim and his/her family. It might mean being a sounding board for an at-risk teen or giving a single mom some help with her job skills. Or maybe a church could adopt someone aging out of foster care. The best way to help a trafficking victim--is to do something before they become enslaved. 

Proverbs shows how the choice to get involved doesn't only impact someone in a far off country or in my own neighborhood. It also impacts each Christian who makes it, now and in the future (see also Matthew 25:41-45).

Proverbs 21:13, 14. Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. 

Proverbs 21:15. It is a joy for the just to do justice.

The choice is our's to make.

An easy choice would be to share this blog on FB or Twitter. The Body of Christ working together can make the biggest difference of all. Also, please share your stories with us. They may give someone else a great idea and take that individual from apathetic to empathetic.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

"With God, I can do all things! But with God and you, and the people who you can interest, by the grace of God, we're gonna cover the world!"            Aimee Simple McPherson

This quote from Sister Aimee, an LA-based evangelist in the 1920s and '30s who pioneered the use of modern media, adequately covers how the body of Christ can make a difference to abolishing modern-day slavery. A Californians for Jesus event next Saturday, July 13th, at 9:30 a.m. will make the role of Christians in every sphere of society even more clear.(See link for more details.)

You may think you've never been involved in abolitionist efforts and that you don't have enough time to participate in one more thing, but your current efforts may already be a significant part of the solution. Partnering with others in the body of Christ regardless of age, denomination, ethnicity, or profession will likely maximize your current efforts in ways you never even imagined. Whether you are involved with a nonprofit, work in the entertainment field, serve in government, are a pastor or a soccer mom--you are an influencer who can dramatically make a difference as Christians come together to address the underlying issues that feed human trafficking. 

Current efforts typically focus on traffickers and victims. And that's critical. But if we never address the underlying causes for trafficking--poverty, orphans, ideology, broken relationships, and the value of life--societal problems will continue to grow until they completely consume our culture. Increasingly we hear about the problems, but now its time to come together to consider solutions. With God we can do all things, nothing is impossible.

Awareness, prayer, and building relationships is the place to start. They will dramatically impact whether human traffickers continue to gain ground in So. California or whether Christians will follow Christ's commands and work together toward justice, compassion, and mercy. By connecting your efforts with those of other believers already working on this issue, we can let freedom ring. 

To make the sound of the freedom we have in Christ even sweeter, please consider sharing the link for this blog post with others in your network. Even if you can't make Saturday's event, involving others is a terrific way to make a difference.