The Unfamiliar Passions of God
| Before addressing the students, Gary gave a slide presentation describing the oppression and abuse of three young people: Shama, David and Jyoti, who have suffered from forced participation in bonded slavery to produce cigarettes, from abuse and torture at the hands of corrupt police, and from forced sexual slavery in brothels. The following are Gary's remarks after his slide presentation:
Gary Haugen addresses students at Calvin College:
In verses 17 and 18 of Psalm 10 it says, "O Lord you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."
Psalm 35 puts it this way, in verse 10: "O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them; you rescue the weak and the needy from those who despoil them."
See, this is the good news of our scriptures, that in a world full of injustice and abuse, ours is a God of justice who yearns to bring rescue . But in spite of this good news, this marvelous good news, to me it always just raises another question, doesn't it? Which simply is "Well, that's nice, but what's God's plan for actually doing that? What's God's plan for bringing rescue to Shama, to David, and to Jyoti?" Well it turns out that once again the answer from scripture is pretty straightforward, it turns out that: " we're the plan ." You know Micah Chapter 6, verse 8, which we sing about and is on all of our Christian calendars, I think, it says, "He has told you, O Man, O Woman, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: but to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Isaiah 1:17 says, "Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." So there's no question from scripture that God has given to his people the work of doing justice in the world. But if you're like me, you hear these stories and you hear these statistics and you learn all the things you learn in your classes about all the oppression and abuse in the world and you can just feel bolted to your chair with despair! We feel so powerless. But you know, in those moments I think it's very helpful to remember this little story from the gospels, when Jesus fed the five thousand.
Do you remember this story? It's interesting because the disciples are in exactly the same position we find ourselves in; remember Jesus is talking for a long time and everyone is getting hungry, and so the disciples go to Jesus and they say "Hey Jesus, everybody's hungry, why don't you send them home to get themselves fed?" And Jesus doesn't want to miss out on the fun of this situation, I think, and so he says to his disciples, "No, you guys just go ahead and feed ‘em!" The disciples are really patient with Jesus and they go ahead and explain to him what he doesn't understand about the situation and they say, "Well Jesus, you see, there's FIVE THOUSAND hungry people. And it would take a half year's wages to be able to feed them all and we'd really love to do that, but we just don't have that cash on us today, so [brushing hands free of the problem] ‘Back To You, Jesus!'" Interesting, right, because there was nothing unclear about what Jesus asked them to do. He said, "Feed the people." But they looked at the enormity of the need, and they looked at their own resources, and made their own calculation that, "This really can't have anything to do with us." Likewise with injustice in the world you look at the enormity of the need and we look at our own puny resources and we think, "This can't have anything to do with us." But what does Jesus say in the story? Something very interesting, he simply asks, "Well, what do you have?"
Well they don't have nothing, and so they push forward what they do have, which is the little boy with the sack lunch. He's got the five loaves and the two fish in it, right? And this is presented as the corporate resources to meet the massive need! And then the apostle Andrew, who has a graduate degree in public policy from Harvard, I think, he looks at the five loaves and the two fish and simply says, [deep, resounding voice] "What are these, among so many?" [Laughter.] See this would be me, because I'm very clever, and really well-educated, and I went to college and I took a math course, and you've got FIVE THOUSAND hungry people and you've got five loaves and two fish, and frankly, [self-important voice] "If you're as sophisticated as I am, and if you understood the deeper sociological roots of the whole situation you'd see there's nothing for us to do but sit in the paralysis of despair." But what does Jesus say? Something very different, he simply says, "Give it to me." "What do you have, and will you give it to me?" And in that moment Jesus takes responsibility for the miracle, and proceeds to feed five thousand people. He didn't ask the boy to give what was needed, he didn't ask the boy for a miracle; he just asked the boy for what he had.
Do you know that Shama is no longer held in bonded slavery anymore? Our IJM investigators were able to put together a report about the way she was being abused and in the process discovered fourteen other children who were being abused in that village and ended up exposing a syndicate of hundreds of children who were held in slavery. We put this together into a report and made an appointment on a Monday with a magistrate who had the power to release these children, but, we didn't know how he would respond to the report, so on the Sunday before the meeting we went to this little church in the middle of rural South Asia, to pray for that meeting with the magistrate, because we had our report, (we had our "lunch"), but what we needed was a miracle! And we got to the church and who should turn out to be the guest preacher in that particular church on that particular Sunday, but the very magistrate we were supposed to meet with the next day. That he too is a follower of Jesus Christ and was able to take these reports, and was able to set all of these children free. He was later promoted to become special commissioner of bonded labor, and has helped IJM to set free hundreds upon hundreds, legion upon legion, of children moving out of literal slavery into freedom, back into schools, and into the life that God intended for them. And all of this obviously happens because everyone at International Justice Mission is an absolute genius! "Did we have a plan for leveraged impact, or what?" No, what we have is a God of justice who loved these children, who was just waiting for someone to pony up even just a little bit of obedience, so that he could do a miracle.
Likewise, David is no longer rotting in jail. Our local Kenyan/IJM lawyers were able to investigate and pursue his case, getting him released from jail. He's not in prison anymore—but I'll tell you where he is—he's in law school. Because he has seen the power of God, and he now wants to be a voice for those who are abused. And while he is now out of prison, I'll tell you who is in prison: the five police officers who committed that horrific abuse. They've now been properly dismissed from the police force and are being prosecuted. And this is changing the calculation in the community about what the police can get away with. And this [slide on screen] is a picture of David, with his IJM lawyer, Victor, there on the left. David loves Victor. Victor is a miracle worker who was able to rescue him. He's one of the best lawyers in Kenya , but he also happens to be blind. And so David pulled me aside one day and he said to me, you know, "don't tell Victor this, but, if Victor can be such an amazing lawyer without even being able to see, then it's no big deal that I don't have a right arm." See this is hope beginning to change everything in David's life, and in his community.
Likewise for Jyoti, she's no longer being horrifically abused, inside a brothel. Some of our IJM undercover investigators were able to find her, work with local police to get her rescued out, she was taken to a place of long-term Christian after-care, where after years, she was able to come to know Christ personally. Then she came back to us and she said, you know, "I know where other children are being abused. Can I lead you on another police raid, to rescue them out?" And so she returned to that place of horror and allowed us to rescue another seven girls out of the brothels. One of those was a girl named Kalindi. And when Kalindi was rescued out, she came back once again to say you know, "there are still more children in this other place where I could take you," and so Kalindi led us on yet another raid. And she led us to a brothel, where there was this underground detention center, this underground hovel, where there were dozens of girls held in forced prostitution, and on the day that she was able to bring us back there, dozens of these girls were able to be brought out of this incredibly brutal darkness. And they moved out of a place of ugliness and abuse, and into the light of freedom. And all of this happened, because the body of Christ actually showed up for Jyoti, and then Jyoti showed up for Kalindi, and then Kalindi showed up for these girls. This is the power of the gospel going forth into the world, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
You know if you think of that story of the feeding of the five thousand, why did Jesus do it the way that he did? I mean, why didn't, if everybody was hungry, why didn't he just dump the manna on everybody? [Deep voice] "Manna!" [dumping with hands] "Get back to the Teaching!" I think he did it the way that he did for just one reason: I think he wanted to give one little boy a very cool day. [Laughter] Right? I mean, like, this little boy goes home to his mom, who made the lunch, right, like, "Mom! Guess what Jesus did with my lunch today? He fed FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE!!" Do you imagine that that little boy will ever forget that day? And yet what a small day he would have had, right, if he had just gone away to eat his own lunch? And yet did Jesus actually have to have the lunch in order to do the miracle? Or did he maybe just love this little boy so much that he just wanted to say, "Wait, wait, wait! Look! Look what I can do with your lunch!"
What does this mean for all of us? I'd like to just suggest just four simple things. Number one: it might suggest a new season of rediscovering God's passion for justice in the world. We've produced some books and some materials for teachers, some resources for you to go back into the scripture to find God's heart for justice. Also some of you might want to pray for the work of justice. This is what I would invite all of you to do, as a big favor to me, go to our website and sign up as a prayer partner for IJM. We have a table up here as well. You can get information about it. But as a prayer partner we will give you an e-mail once a week with these kinds of urgent stories where we need people to pray and intercede, and I would ask you to do that. See if that process of praying every week for this does not change you. Some of you might want to pay for the rescue the poor cannot afford. Some of you might want to actually go and do this work, and to train to be good at it, and I'd invite you to visit our website and look at all the jobs that we have open, look at all the internship possibilities, begin to dream and think about how God might use you. But don't miss the invitation.
Finally I would like to just close by considering a question all of us think of, I imagine, which is, "Why in a world of so much suffering and need have we been given so much?" You know, I grew up wanting to be a really good football player, and sad to say, it turned out I just really wasn't much of a football player, but fortunately my two older brothers would sit me down and explain to me why. [Laughter.] And they said, Gary, you gotta understand, see: "You're small , but you're slow ." And so, this was helpful to me in an odd way and so one of the things I would do, of course, is I would go to the weight room to work out, right, to try to get bigger [frenetically pumping arms], I would go to the weight room and I would work out and work out. Nothing would happen but I would go anyway, and I'd be workin' out and workin' out and there in the weight room I would always look over and there in their special section of the gym were the bodybuilders. Right, have you seen these guys? I mean, they're huge! Huge chests and arms and legs and neck. And, I used to just look at all that muscle mass, and all that strength and all that power, and I used to just ask, "But what's it all for?" "It's for posing!" And the only time all that strength and power is ever really brought to bear in the world is when there's a crisis in the kitchen, and the jam jar's stuck and they, they pop open the jam jar! See, my prayer for us, my prayer for us is that in a world of so much suffering and hurt and need, that God will not leave us opening jam jars. But that he will he will rescue us from all things petty, all things small, and that he will rescue us from all things of fear, and move us out with courage into the world that is yearning to know the goodness of God, through us. May God yet find us useful for what matters to him, in the world.
Thank you all very much.
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