Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Liberation from Causes

"That is such a great cause."
"That's so awesome that you're involved in a cause like that."
"What an important cause to support."

These phrases are nails on a blackboard.
I've used them myself.
And it's not that there's anything wrong with a cause, per se.
Sometimes it's a launching point that catapults someone to the next step.
It's just that it's so easy for a cause to stay just that.
A cause. 
A thing to support that evokes an emotional sigh. 

This is what can be difficult about being involved with anti-trafficking efforts. 
It's an easy cause to latch onto.
I mean, what decent human being doesn't want to end human trafficking?

There's a book that I read several months ago called Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God that I keep sneaking peeks at again on my Kindle. It talks about the powers of this world and how we are not to imitate them, even in efforts to do good. Instead, it presents a theology of weakness that relies on the tabernacling of God both in our own lives and in communal life. Jesus did not approach the leaders of the day to get his message out, but ordinary (or even less than ordinary) men and women. It seems I talk about this idea a lot but it's just so counter-intuitive that I need to remind myself over and over again. I don't naturally want to trust God to work in and through me; I want to do what I can to urge him along.

Marva J. Dawn says, "It is not truly liberating if we participate in worthy (even biblical) causes just because the media makes them the 'issue of the day.' Such fads and fashions pass away when they are no longer front page news."

If we as a (universal) church are to be involved in human trafficking efforts, causes, missions- however we want to label them, then we must make sure that what we are doing looks more like the posture of Jesus than the posture of the powers of this world.

So how do we know whether it's something that we should be a part of or if it's just another fad?

It's kind of a Sunday school answer.

Prayer and listening to God.
When we're choosing which areas to be involved in, we should be asking God. Duh. Sometimes decisions feel like a bit of a trust fall. Yet when we know who will catch us it's easier to let go. When we're already immersed in knowing Him there are a couple ways that help discern God's voice through the narrative of Scripture.

So that brings the question, why trafficking?
A couple simple reasons, actually. 

Theology, what I know from the pages of Scripture to be true, informs who I am and what I do.
At some time in our lives we are all enslaved and need liberation.  As one liberated I am now an *agent of liberation, reconciling all things under Christ. And while salvation is the ultimate liberation, the act of being liberated is an ongoing process. It is never just personal, as we are human beings created to commune with each other. Our liberation is tied together with others, as what we do effects those around us. We are connected to each other as well as responsible to each other. When I find myself enslaved to myself and my own self-interests, it impacts those around me, whether that's my husband and kids or the lady I get annoyed at on the road for not driving as fast as I think she should. This is destructive for everyone around me. Human trafficking is the ultimate expression of slavery that both effects the individual and the community. It is exploitation that effects every aspect of a person's being- physically, mentally, and spiritually. Christ is the only one from whom true freedom can come. We live it when our lives have been changed by it.

The opportunities right in front of us.
The beginning of all of this in my life came through relationships that I've had for years. Friends introduced me to new friends who broadened my circle and helped me see a bigger picture. I was given eyes that have been learning to see what's right in front of me. And that is crucial- it's right in front of me. It's local. It's part of the make-up of our own community. I see things differently and seek out people and places that have been right there all along but I didn't have eyes to see before. I've been able to meet new people that continue this cycle. It's pretty awesome, actually. I get to build relationships with people I wouldn't encounter for any other reason. For a while I wanted to depend on my already-friends to share my passions, but this way is so much better. They can all continue on in the ways in which God made them to impact the world and I can learn how to best support them as they do that, but at the same time I get to meet more incredible people to collaborate with. This is one of the most beautiful ways to see God answer prayers, in giving us eyes to see what is right in front of us. This is where the Holy Spirit guides, in showing us how to be a part of addressing the needs in our path.

*Sidenote- And this is super important- when it comes to the expression "agents of liberation" - the end does not justify the means. How we do this is just as important as that we do it at all- not through oppressive means that are just an alternative to another way of controlling or holding power above, but through a theology of weakness that relies on the power of the cross (God's ultimate display of power over evil, sin, death and corrupted power through an act of weakness). We cannot force, we can offer. We cannot manipulate, we can love. This is especially true in dealing with people who are used to being controlled.

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