Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Ultimate Betrayal

Recently, I saw a movie in which a Rapha girl recounts her story. It’s heart-rending.

I’ll write more about this film some other time. As I watched this girl’s story unfold, I was struck by the magnitude of betrayal that she endured. At every turn, the people she encountered used and abused her. The men to whom she was labor trafficked the first time as a young child mistreated her and cheated her out of her money. Then, she was trafficked again to Bangkok with the same results. She desperately wanted to help her impoverished family, so she took what she thought was a restaurant job in Siem Reap. On the way, she was raped not once but twice and brutally beaten. The restaurant job was a ruse, and she ended up trapped in a living nightmare at a brothel, where she faced unthinkable horrors, including unrelenting sexual assaults and forced drug addiction. That went on for month after month. One betrayal compounded upon another.

Today, I spoke with a young woman at church about this film. She wants to invite her parents to its preview, but she says that they’re good Christians and don’t like to see anything that makes them feel bad. They like to keep life positive and upbeat.

I understand. But nobody gave this young girl the chance to keep her life positive and upbeat. Her desires were never considered. Never heard. Never respected.

I understand that stories about the human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are disturbing. We don’t want to consider such ugliness. But unless the church turns its face towards this reality and acts decisively and boldly, we are guilty of the ultimate betrayal. For who should take the lead in fighting evil, if not Christ’s church?

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Type of God He Is

“So where was God when I was being abused? What type of God would let something like that happen to someone?” Those are good questions. They’re tough questions but good questions. Here’s another good question: “What type of God would let something like that happen to Himself?” Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as an attempt to avoid the hard questions. It’s one question that might actually help us gain some perspective on the others.

What hurts when we think about God is His apparent aloofness. It seems that He doesn’t care. He didn’t do anything to stop our abuse. He could have. But He didn’t. He didn’t strike our abusers dead before they hurt us. He didn’t give us enough power to fight them off and escape to safety. He didn’t protect us from them in the first place. It seems like God just stands by and watches all types of horrible things happen to people and never does anything about it. What type of God is that?

While this may be true of the gods of other religions, we find something different in Christianity. In Christianity, God took on flesh, entered our world, suffered, and died on a cross. His death was for sin—all sin. So that means, when Jesus died He suffered due to our abusers. He knows personally the type of pain that they bring. He has suffered because of them Himself. That’s what type of God He is.

What’s more is that He knows fully the anguish of our feelings of abandonment and resentment. He has taken these upon Himself, too. He has taken upon Himself our anger, hatred, and doubts. All of it. He isn’t a God who watches our experiences from afar. He knows them up close and personal. That’s what type of God He is.

Why would He do this? The prophet writes: “He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well” (Isaiah 53:5 CEV). Jesus wants to heal us.

God values freedom, which means evildoers are able to hurt others. But God hasn’t left us without hope. He is able to heal all our wounds, including those done by others and the self-inflicted ones. That’s the type of God He is.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. —Luke 12:6,7