Fight in the Game - A Summary of the ActNOW Event
On Tuesday, January 20th, 2015, Riverside hosted an actNOW awareness event on human trafficking and online child sexual abuse. It was impactful and eye-opening. Out of all of the impactful statistics I heard, nothing was as impactful to me as the one without a number: “Human trafficking is in our town”. It's as simple as that. No matter how isolated you think your town is from human trafficking, online child sexual abuse, and pedophilia, it’s not. There was a panel of four speakers, including a law enforcement official. Testimonies and stories were shared that were too graphic to be shared here. All four panelists are heavily involved in their respective roles against this social issue. All four of them on the panel have an extremely important role in their fight against this that I highly respect. They rightfully explained how everybody has a fight in the game. But the same question kept popping in my head, "What is my fight in the game?", "What about the church? What is our fight in the game?" To me, personally, and as a church, our fight in the game is the gospel. God doesn't call the church to be a political machine. Don't get me wrong, He has Christians in high political positions in local and state government. But He calls the church to be defenders and promoters of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Laws and legislation are extremely important, they are a part of God’s order and organization. I spoke with a gentleman at the event and he explained that only half the world has laws in place that curb human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. So there is absolutely a place for laws and legislation. But my point is that they can only go so far without the gospel. Our community and the world needs both legislation and the gospel. It’s a both/and, not an either/or. Laws and legislation alter behavior. The gospel transforms hearts.
Multiple times the concept of evil was brought up in the discussion. They're right. It's flat-out evil what is going on out there in the world and in our own community. What we're seeing is some of the darker corners of the sin that resides in all of us. But I think that term "evil" gets thrown around a lot without really grasping the implication of it. What that means, biblically speaking, is that we are not up against men. What are we really fighting against? Paul said it better than I ever could in his letter to the Ephesians, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers, over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". These are spiritual forces that are manifesting themselves in people. If we're fighting evil, then the fight requires something more than just trying to punish offenders and alter behavior with laws and legislation. If we're only fighting evil with laws and legislation, then our efforts will fall short. Law darts and legislation arrows might make a dent, but they won't penetrate and stick. Combatting evil spiritual forces with human effort is a battle Satan will win every time because he goes for the jugular - the heart and the mind. So we must do the same. The only true way evil is combated is by fighting it with holiness in addition to law and legislation. Evil spiritual forces must be combated with Holy spiritual forces. Holiness comes from the gospel. As a church, our fight in the game is the gospel. The offenders should absolutely be tried under the laws of our land and be punished, but it doesn’t just stop there. God wants to restore them to. Nobody is outside of God’s love and His desire to bring them to Him. People need restoration of their heart, mind, and entire being.
It's not just human trafficking, but it's also racism, poverty, hunger, political corruption, and inequality. Because of sin in people, our entire system is tainted with sin. This is a heart problem on an individual level that can only be addressed by Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Ravi Zacharai in his book, “Jesus Among Other Gods” said, “Jesus never came to establish a government upon the people by force. He did not even talk about political systems. He came to rule in the hearts of people, not by the establishment of political power. He asks to live in you, not to control your state.”
Laws and legislation have their importance, but considering the spiritual forces at work, they barely penetrate the surface. God wants us to go the distance. He wants us to go for the jugular and go heart-deep, and the gospel is what gets it done. As Christians, it's important we get involved in our social issues and seek justice. It’s important to do so alongside those who are not Christians. We need their help in fighting social issues. Whether it's aiding the oppressed, mentoring rehabilitating victims (and offenders) or serving on a local task force, we all have a part to play. But as Christians, we have a calling from God to tie whatever it is we're doing to the gospel. Because it's the gospel that cleanses, restores, and makes new. Jesus didn't just die for sinful law-abiding citizens, he died for the sinful, law-breaking ones to, even the darkest ones. He wants to make all things and all people new, not just some things new and some people new. We need laws and legislation and those that are pressing for that is their fight in the game and we should support them wholeheartedly. But as a church, the gospel is our fight in the game.