Imagine being a young lady who is kidnapped and then manipulated into a marriage because a young man finds her attractive. This happens almost every day in Kyrgyzstan. Although “bride stealing” is illegal, it’s still considered culturally acceptable.
Contrary to popular belief, most young women involved in human trafficking are not kidnapped. Most are convinced by family members to enter into such a life to provide income for their families. The families are often paid by recruiters to convince their daughters, sisters, and nieces to say yes to such a life.
There are children in this world who don’t have adequate access to education, food, clothing or even the simplest and modest privileges of children from the western world. This leads to limited cognitive, emotional and behavioral development. Poverty is the cause. Just this week we were told a story of a five-year-old girl who died from malaria in East Africa—even though there are inexpensive medications that can treat malaria.
All of these situations happen every day and all have one thing in common: The victims are innocent, and their demise is of no fault of their own. They are simply born in the wrong place and into unfortunate circumstances.
They have no access to justice.
God’s heart has always been to defend those who are less fortunate. In Isaiah 1, the Lord calls for Judah to repent. In verse 16 He instructs them to cleanse themselves and to “cease to do evil.” Then God gives them a mandate in verse 17: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (NKJV).
Allow me to contextualize this according to the time we live in. It is not enough that we are born-again and have insured ourselves eternity with Jesus. It’s also not enough that we have stopped living in a destructive and sinful way, or that we are regular worshipers in our houses of worship. We must also value what God values.
What does He value? People. Specifically, God cares about people in need. He cares for those who are discriminated against, persecuted and forgotten. Ken Wytsma, founder of The Justice Conference, made this statement that deeply impacted my understanding of justice: “Doing justice is promoting what ought to be, and fighting injustice is fighting what should not be.”
Jesus stood for “what should be” and fought against “what should not be.” His mission is now the responsibility of the church. As His followers, we are to preach the gospel, bring healing physically and emotionally, and liberate those who are being held captive. Jesus made His purpose clear while reading Isaiah 61. He said in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Although we believe Jesus is the answer and we are to advance His kingdom as the solutions to life’s problems, it’s not always that simple. The reality is there is a difference between “justice”—what should be according to the heart of God—and “truth”—what is actually happening.
Homelessness, poverty, genocide, human trafficking, war, refugees and persecution are the norm in so many places. The truth is not all people have the same opportunities in life and many find solutions to their problems through dysfunctional and destructive means.
It might seem impossible to change the truth we see around the world. However, we as His representatives can make a difference. How can we be voices for justice in this dark world? Here are three simple steps:
1. Choose to see what God sees.
You don’t have to look far to find people in need. We also don’t need an audible voice from God to help those in need. The Word is clear about the role the church should take in this world.
In Luke 10 there is a story about a man who was attacked, robbed and left for dead. In this parable, a priest and a Levite walked by this man and did nothing to help. However, a Samaritan not only saw the man, but he stopped to help him.
If we are ever going to stand for justice, we must stop ignoring the problem and become the answer. The priest and Levite chose to ignore the problem. The Samaritan saw what God saw.
We have to see what God sees. It’s easy to get caught up in our own challenges. Unfortunately, leaders will often only engage when it benefits their dreams or passion. When we see what God sees, we then realize it’s not about our kingdom; it’s all about His.
2. Don’t get overwhelmed.
Some people look at the injustice in the world and say, “I can’t make a dent in these problems!” The reality is God has not called you to right every wrong in the world. However, He has called you to do something.
When my wife, Gretchen, and I were youth pastors in a small community in North Florida, there was a high dropout rate for high school students. We decided to start a GED sponsorship program. We picked young people up from their homes, took them to the GED program at the school, met with their teachers and provided lunch for them. This was a simple, yet effective contribution to solving a problem. Start by choosing one problem and make a difference!
3. Use what you have.
Recently a missionary family that had spent 33 years serving in multiple African countries visited us. Their assignment was to train leaders and see new churches planted. The wife of the family was heartbroken from the poverty and malnourishment of the children.
This couple didn’t have the resources to feed everyone. However, the wife said, “I have three rocks and a pot.” They built a fire, set the pot on the rocks and made porridge. This small act of faith eventually led to a major ministry that is feeding more than 1,500 children every day.
We can all look at what we don’t have. But what do you have that can make a difference? Begin with what you have and realize that God uses small beginnings to make a big impact!
4. Networking is powerful.
My wife works regularly with victims of human trafficking in Belgium. This has led others from our church to get involved. We didn’t start this ministry. In fact, we were not equipped or trained to do so, but we met an organization that works with women of all ages in the city of Antwerp.
Over the years women who were involved in prostitution have been saved. Many of them found new jobs so they could leave this demoralizing life. It’s been a great partnership for our church. The other ministry provides training, we provide manpower and resources, and God gets the glory! It’s amazing what can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit.
Begin to look at the needs in your community and beyond. Find organizations that are credible and partner with them. Support missionaries who are passionately working to be an answer to someone’s problem. Send short-term teams to be a support to these efforts. The power of networking is unlimited and can make a huge difference.
I have learned this powerful truth over the years. Small steps of faith eventually lead to big steps. When you partner with God’s heart to change the world, the world will never be the same!
Originally published in Encourage magazine