Friday, May 22, 2015

Fighting Human Trafficking is Not My Passion

When I die, I do not want anyone to say, "Oh she had such a passion for fighting human trafficking. She had such a passion for justice." That may be an admirable goal, but it's simply not mine. 

Rather I want people to say: "Oh, she had such a heart for Jesus--for people to know him and become more like him." My life's compass has been developed through a growing intimacy with my Savior. To know him better, I study and apply Scripture and try to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit instead of carrying out the desires of my flesh (see Galatians 5:16). 

One of the greatest compliments I've ever received was from a Christian leader in the justice movement. At a recent conference he asked: "You just go where the wind blows, don't you?"

I doubt he had any idea that my greatest material treasure is a Lladro figurine called "The Windblown Girl." When I was in my twenties, she symbolized the person I wanted to become. At the time, self-destructive choices blew my life around like a tumbleweed, and I longed for stability. Though gale force winds assail this young woman, she doesn't waver. Rather fragile flowers magnify her strength. The book she holds behind her back empowers her to stand firm on her convictions.

For me to live such a life necessitated a complete overhaul--one made possible by the God, whose Son left all the pleasures of heaven, coming to Earth to take my punishment on the cross. Instead of my sins leading to death, Christ's resurrection gave me the ability to live a new and better life.

That's what motivates me. Christ followers need to heed Paul's admonition in Romans 12:1-2:
to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul's letter goes on to say that just as our body has many members with different functions so does the body of Christ. That "since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly."

As I gave up seeking pleasure on my own terms and began to put God's ways ahead of my selfish desires, a set of gifts began emerging that started helping me do the right thing, even when it costs time and money. Those are a small sacrifice when it comes to pleasing the Guardian and Shepherd of my soul.

Loving Jesus has left me no choice but to get involved when I see injustice. Especially when it comes to young girls like I once was, girls who desperately need rescuing. It's impossible to shut my eyes and turn my back on evil, after God in his great mercy delivered me from it. 

That's why I do what I do. Because I love Jesus and it's clear in Scripture that we need to demonstrate compassion and love others as ourselves. To fight human trafficking, all I needed was to know how my gifts could make a difference. And, as opportunities arise to participate. It's simply a matter of being me and being involved. For some that means working with victims. Others work with technology, web design, mentoring or after-school programs. Health care workers identify victims and point them toward appropriate services. Law enforcement rescues girls and boys from pimps.

CARE 18 is an 18-month collaborative effort in Los Angeles County made up of people who work according to their areas of expertise. The people who started it are businessmen. They are currently exploring sites for a multi-service center, promoting an effort for men to take a stand against trafficking, working on legislation, and drawing the body of Christ together to function properly, learn from one another, and expand our reach. That's the good news. That's how God's people glorify him, so why wouldn't I want to be involved?

Maybe as a follower of Christ, you do too. And CARE 18 is a great place to start. On June 6th, there's going to be a free training where you can learn about the problems and find out how to make a difference just by being you. It's an effort filled with grace--as God's grace was extended to us, we extend his love, mercy, and compassion to others. There's nothing better than that.

We CARE Catalyst Training

Saturday, June 6, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Orthopaedic Institute for Children
403 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles
FREE training (lunch included) to equip you to be a champion 
against sex trafficking of youth  
Space is limited to the first 100 participants 



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Words that Could End Human Trafficking

Sometimes I hear Christian justice leaders boldly proclaim that "we're going to end human trafficking," and I wonder how realistic that perspective is. Imagine--no slavery. No girls or boys being prostituted. No men or women enslaved in labor trafficking. No Islamic extremists kidnapping girls and selling them to each other. No pimps. No johns. No gangs. No greed. No disregard for human life. Millions of people set free. Hmm, what could possibly bring about such a dramatic change to today's culture?

The Bible contains two words with the power to end that kind of evil: "God created." He created the world we live in. Each human life was created and deserves dignity and respect. Marriage was created and the covenant between a man and a woman was set forth with vows that were meant to be honored. Families were created as safe places where a spiritual inheritance was intended to be valued above all else.

Love, trust, faithfulness, security, and intimacy were infused into God's creation from the very beginning. Right behaviors have always mattered in discouraging bad ones. And that's certainly true in the fight against modern-day slavery, although I rarely hear Christian justice leaders talk among themselves about the righteousness that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet throughout Scripture those who honor God's creation and respect His authority are rewarded and kept safe. Those who ignore His Word suffer vile consequences--consequences that deeply impact innocent victims. Isn't that what we're seeing at work in our world today? Isn't the turning away from God at the heart of the modern-day slavery explosion? And, among the victims are society's most vulnerable--our children.

The Author of creation deliberately designed boundaries that would uphold His handiwork. At the same time, He gave us the authority to make decisions. He didn't make us slaves. Rather He gave us the freedom to obey Him or not. And it's disturbing that more often than not, Christians engaged in the battle for justice aren't talking about this rebellion as the root of the problems with injustice.

This past few weeks I've wrestled with the idea that some of the Christian leaders who claim we will end human trafficking also condone one of the most significant underlying causes--abortion. When the very right to life is disregarded, why shouldn't traffickers sell human bodies for profit? Doesn't injustice start with the value for life? My initial reaction to Christian universities and churches giving a platform to known abortion supporters such as Dr. Cornel West was, "How could they, especially without identifying the concerns?" I agree that Christians need to respectfully discuss different interpretations of Scripture. That's how we learn and grow. However, when biblical concerns are set aside "to make nice,"--well, according to Romans 1:18-23, that's how an unjust society forms. The kind of society that defends the right to  take the lives of innocent babies. The kind of society that deceives people into thinking porn is okay. The kind of society that increases demand for younger and younger girls that traffickers are all too happy to supply.

For Christian proponents of abortion--justice thought leaders--I want to ask: Does life only have value when it's wanted by the mother? So what happens when a mother doesn't want her baby or her 10-year-old daughter or 15-year old son become inconvenient? Is it any wonder that they become throw-away kids ripe for traffickers to pick?

Searching God's Word for something, anything I may have missed--I see absolutely nothing to support the position that a person can deliberately destroy a life because it's unwanted. Rather Genesis 1:27 sets up the value for human life from the beginning:
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Other verses like Psalm 139:13 and 14 reveal the value of every individual life from the moment of conception in a way that sets up the foundation for true biblical justice.
For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 
According to Scripture God oversees each life as it's being formed, and that's enough. For Christians to argue about its worth or justify a different view doesn't seem to be an option. Isn't a person's value what these same Christian leaders explain to trafficking victims telling them how precious their lives are? How they matter to God and are made in His image? If they could be disposed of months or moments before birth, how then did they suddenly become valuable after leaving the womb? And how can that perspective possibly fit with the "biblical justice" movement? It doesn't.

Christians need to rise to a higher calling--one that transforms our own personal lives as well as the communities we live in.

Job understood equal value of all people as coming from the Lord and mentions it even in the context of slavery. In Job 31:13-15, he said:
If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves When they filed a complaint against me, . . . Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?
Isaiah 44:24 affirms this view:
 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things,
Jeremiah 1:5 makes clear that God's plans for individual lives are established before we are even born.
 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Have we (Christians) become so arrogant as to think that because a life made in the image of God is inconvenient, we can destroy it? Despite the Apostle Paul being a murderer and a Pharisee, he understood that the Lord's hand had been at work from the time he was in his mother's womb. In Galatians 1:15 he says:
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb . . .
The sanctity of life has everything to do with ending modern-day slavery. When even Christians fighting human trafficking have bought into the cultural lies of a one-sided message that a human being made in the image of God can be destroyed; it shows a lack of regard for God's Word and His authority over His creation. And justice disintegrates into consequences like human trafficking. Without His power and righteousness, we're perpetuating the very thing we claim to be fighting.

It's Christianity that gives every child value, which as historian O.M. Bakke points out in When Children Became People, was not the case in ancient Greece and Rome. Back then children were considered "nonpersons." And if professors like Peter Singer have their way, that may be the case once again--especially when "Christian justice professors" promote Singer's right to teach his views on infanticide to young minds trying to find their way in the world. (Hmm, does this mean we should also teach these same young minds how to destroy themselves by becoming Islamic jihadists who steal women and sell them for sex?)

Scripture gives Christ followers a reality check that those fighting human trafficking need to heed if we want to experience His power in the fight against evil. No matter how young a pre-born baby is, that child still matters to God. No matter how disabled an infant child might be or who he or she is born to, that life matters from the time it was conceived and should be treated with dignity and respect--yes, even in the case of rape. (Would any Christian tell a child of rape that he or she is worthless because of the way she or he was conceived?)

South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-Rak humbly shows everyone Jesus as he cares for the most disabled infants, much as Mother Theresa inspired us all in the way she cared for the poor. And therein lies the message the world needs to fight modern-day slavery. That every life is of infinite value because each person was created in the image of God.

Free will mixed with the depravity of man and his rejection of God's image stamped onto every human life has given Satan a fertile playground for the evil of modern-day slavery. Extreme greed. Self-indulgence. Sexual impurity. Playing outside the boundaries God set to protect life. These choices destroy people and make them capable of great evil--the kind of evil that enslaves victims and tortures them. These are the issues true biblical justice is made of. The question is, when and how can the body of Christ work together to address them?

And, on that front there is some good news. That will be the topic of my next post.