Advocacy

Victory and its Victims

Blog_HockeyDie-hard fans braved threatening weather to witness the Blackhawks face-off for another championship. Even those who care nothing for hockey were converted to temporary fandom in time for the finals. Following the victory, multitudes swarmed the streets of Chicago for one glimpse of the winning team with their coveted cup. And I could only think of one thing.

There are young girls, even boys, being trafficked in celebration of one short-lived victory.

Ever since I found out that sporting events are among the largest magnets for human trafficking rings, I can’t glimpse a fragment of a game without mourning the countless victims waiting in the wings for the after-game festivities. How can we revel in the fantasy of athletic glory when so many are living a nightmare as a result? How can we root for any team if no one is rising to fight for the slaves suffering among us?

It’s beyond tragedy that we keep silent as an estimated 9.5 billion per year flows from our country into the torture of young innocents. As our sports heroes bathe in fame, fortune, and glory, our children are led as sheep to the slaughter. We invest millions in sports mania, blind to the billions squandered on the trafficking of our future. Will we continue to stand on the sidelines, watching in silence?

Love Grieves

Grieving from Google Images I used to be funny. Really, I did. You wouldn’t know it, because I usually couldn’t remember how the joke started, let alone the punch line. Still, I loved to laugh and to make people laugh. But somewhere along the way, I saw the world for what it is. Went on a few mission trips, saw the depths of poverty. Lived in the inner city surrounded by gang violence and drug addiction and children alone on the streets at one in the morning. Learned about human trafficking and saw it happening before my very eyes when I was powerless to intervene. And I stopped laughing so much.

Most specifically, I remember my first trip to Amsterdam. The first day, on a tour bus viewing some famous landmarks, knowing there were slaves in chains behind the façade. The tour guide made a casual remark about how free and happy their society was, noting with pride their legalization of prostitution. And I thought—doesn’t she know that the majority of these women are victims of human trafficking? Deceived into the lifestyle by the promise of good and reputable work. Torn from their families by a bold-faced lie. Abducted. Exploited. Enslaved.

In the evenings our church group went to the place where girls as young as 12 were imprisoned behind glass doors, in hopes of leading them to freedom. One of the girls we talked to broke down in tears because she wanted to get out of there but was afraid her pimp would beat her to death if she left. Most nights, I went back to my room and spent the night crying.

It’s not that I spend every day all mopey and depressed. If you know my kids, you know how impossible that would be. They’re a reminder of the good things in this world—those things worth fighting for. But knowing the evils I’ve seen exist in rampant measure around the world, there is always a heaviness burdening my heart. And I can’t let it go.

There is so much to be grateful for, and yet I’m reminded of how even Jesus wept. He sat on the hillside overlooking the city, longing to gather its people in his arms. Grieved over the hypocrisy of the religious and the brokenness of the sinners. He wept for the things of the world that are not as they should be, because humankind insists on living for self, which inevitably leads to suffering. True love grieves, knowing that life and love could be so much more than what they’ve become in human hands. True love hurts, torn by the sharp-edged pieces as we join in the struggle to mend our broken world.

There’s a time for joy, yes. But there’s a time to grieve. I still want my sense of humor back. But I never want to forget the pain that reminds me what true love is.

True Love…GRIEVES (Day 3, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Love is…SAFE

Romans 13:10 from Google Images Dear, precious child,

Do you know how loved you are? You were specially created for this time in history, to do great things in your generation. You were uniquely designed to love and to be loved with supernatural, self-sacrificing, unfailing love.

My heart grieves for you. I’m burdened because you’ve settled for so much less than what you were made for! Love is so much more than what you know, so much greater than what you’ve seen.

Right now, there is a grave deception battling to turn you away from true love to a counterfeit replica. This imposter tells you that you lack value and worth so much that you deserve to be horribly abused and robbed of your very identity to gain any sense of intimacy. Please, hear this ancient truth: love will never bring you harm. Love is SAFE.

You do not need to be chained and beaten by a sadistic monster to gain true affection. Love does not manipulate you with fairytales of diamonds and penthouses and helicopters. Love does not seduce you with lies only to leave you tortured, broken, and alone. Love ALWAYS PROTECTS.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you CAN walk away. Get out as fast as you can. The chains that bind CAN be broken. It’s better to walk alone than to be bound to a lie that will destroy you in the end.

And, please. Be careful what you see. Be careful what you hear. Lies most often come cloaked in light, poised to lure you in only to leave you blind. Don’t allow yourself to be entertained into the delusion that you are less than what you are.

Sincerely,
Love

True Love…is SAFE (Day One, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

50 Shades of Love (the Sequel)

Blog_BlurredHeartsI’ve decided I’d rather be known for what I stand for than what I stand against. And what I want to stand for is love. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In a culture of hate, the temptation is to harden our hearts, but love is the only thing that can overcome evil.

We live in an age of tolerance, yet there remains much we should not tolerate—including abuse, racism, violence, and modern slavery. And yes, it is important to take a stand against such evils. Yet often in the process of fighting injustice, we fall prey to hateful, bitter hearts. We forget to confront the root issues—those things lacking in our culture and left in the void that contribute to the mindset behind injustice. And what is most lacking in our world? Love.

Our culture has developed a craving for abusive relational habits, such as those trending in modern media. And why? Because we’ve lost sight of the true definition of love, or we never knew what love was to begin with.

In a child development class I once took, we were told that instead of telling a child not to do something harmful or dangerous, we need to give them something productive to do instead. In a similar manner, we can warn others against engaging in media that promotes abusive relationships, but unless we find a positive alternative on which to focus our attentions, appetites will never change.

As a boat with no anchor is sure to drift, a life with no understanding of selfless, sacrificial love will drift toward abuse, racism, violence, slavery, and other destructive tendencies. If those who know of true love stand on the sidelines yelling, “Stop drifting. Stop drifting!” what good is it? What we need is the anchor.

There’s a game called “name the lie, insert the truth.” In the case of relationships, it is no game. The lie is that we exist to gratify our own selfish desires, or to enslave ourselves to the indulgent appetites of another. The truth is, we were specially designed for relationship based on supernatural, self-sacrificing love that builds one another up rather than tearing down.

I hate abuse, racism, violence, slavery, and similar evils because they dehumanize, demoralize, and degrade those made for a greater love and a higher purpose. But more than that, I want to stand for love—it’s power to heal, transform, and overcome. Over the next fifty days, I’m devoting my attentions to exploring what true love is—whether through a Bible verse, a quote, or an example of self-sacrificing love. My personal Facebook and Twitter campaign is #50ShadesOfTrueLove. Feel free to join me, if you want.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

50 Shades of Love

AJ_LoveNeverFailsIn an age where humankind has explored the reaches of space and navigated the depths of the seas, it’s surprising to think we’re still struggling to understand what love is. Our search for its meaning has led to the murky gray waters of confusion, and the generations that follow are left to drown in the flood of misperceptions we’ve left behind. When we pursue love through self-gratification, we’re left empty and abused—because to live according to a selfish definition of love inevitably leads to suffering.

There’s a gaping hole in our hearts, crying out for love and fulfillment. Too often, we search for this love via means incapable of satisfying our deepest and truest needs. Current trends suggest intimacy can be found in sadistic relationships based on bondage, dominance, and slavery. The lie persists that there can be a fairytale ending to such relationships, when headlines and statistics so clearly prove otherwise. Too often, the actual result is suffering and death.

It’s grievous to consider the outcome of our distorted perceptions of love. Our own children are sold into slavery in countless numbers while we turn a blind eye, so consumed in our pursuit of self-gratification. Our high courts are inundated with cases of those fighting to do as they please while our own youth are trapped in bondage to modern slavery with no one to plead their cause. Have we become so desensitized that we care nothing for the innocent of our world while we go on chasing desperately after our own selfish desires?

True love involves self-sacrifice, not self-gratification. It’s when we lay down our lives for the love of another that we find life that is truly life, and love that is truly love. After all these years of fruitless searching, the most complete definition of love is found in ancient words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:4-8)

The many shades of love include patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and sacrifice. Love consists of infinite shades of selfless virtue, and gray is not one of them. We don’t need more gray in our lives. We need more love. True love will never enslave us. It will set us free.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)