In case you didn’t know (or didn’t read previous blog entries), I’m interning with Oasis USA this summer, primarily in the area of human trafficking. This week, the rubber hit the road, and we really got rolling. Along with the two other Fuller interns (Brianna and Kelly), I’m working on Oasis’ “Active Communities against Trafficking in the sex industry” (ACT/s) pack. The aim is to pilot it in a community or two in the area, as well as to review it and put forward any suggestions we might have. But the practical application part of that hasn’t quite gotten going yet, and so we’re working on the review side of things, as well as a couple other things. I’ve been working on constructing some sort of bible study and/or church toolkit resource, which is leading me to go over a number of other organizations’ bible study resources as well as my own theological education. I haven’t written a bible study since before I studied theology, and I’m finding a lot of already-existing bible studies like to proof-text! (Which, to be fair, I’m sure I did a fair bit before I knew any better!)
The first thing we did this week was to watch a couple videos on trafficking. I’m a person who has a surprising capacity for unwavering optimism and faith in the basic goodness and decency in human beings. The area of human trafficking poses a serious challenge to that optimism because there are some really bad people out there. Here are situations and circumstances that make me wonder if such people and such things can be redeemed.
But two things tell me that they can. First, Genesis 1, from which we learn that all human beings are made in the image of God—all human beings, including those who make bad decisions and choose not to walk with God. Of course, those who are victims are more in need of people to defend this image, but just as much, we have something to say about the image of God in those who victimize. As easy as it is to demonize them and to portray them as utterly bad—and well they may seem deserving of such framing—it would serve us well to remember that they too are created in the image of God. Our approach to them will undoubtedly be different from our approach to the survivors, just as Jesus’ approach to the Pharisees was very different from his approach to the oppressed and marginalized; but they are no less creatures of God.
Second, the fact that Christ died for all. Which means that he loved the world—not just those who return his love—enough to give his life as a ransom for many. And as his followers, we are called to have his perspective—no one is beyond redemption. Desmond Tutu writes of his experiences in post-apartheid South Africa in his book God Has A Dream:
As we listened to accounts of truly monstrous deeds of torture and cruelty, it would have been easy to dismiss the perpetrators as monsters because their deeds were truly monstrous. But we are reminded that God’s love is not cut off from anyone. However diabolical the act, it does not turn the perpetrator into a demon. When we proclaim that someone is subhuman, we not only remove for them the possibility of change and repentance, we also remove from them moral responsibility.
We cannot condemn anyone to being irredeemable, as Jesus reminded us on the Cross, crucified as he was between two thieves. When one repented, Jesus promised him that he would be in paradise with him on that same day. Even the most notorious sinner and evildoer at the eleventh hour may repent and be forgiven, because our God is preeminently a God of grace. Everything that we are, that we have, is a gift from God. He does not give up on you or on anyone for God loves you now and will always love you. Whether we are good or bad, God’s love is unchanging and unchangeable. (Tutu 2004: 10-11)
This may be the biggest challenge I face during this internship and beyond: to keep God’s perspective in the forefront of what I do, think and say.