Abraham Lincoln said, “Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature; opposition to it on his love for justice.”
What a powerful picture of the dichotomy of man’s soul! The first epitomizes the unregenerate soul, seeking only its own glory and gratification. The second expresses the longing of the God-infused soul, longing to be like its Maker.
Sadly, many who practiced and fought to preserve the evil institution of slavery also claimed to be Christians, even misappropriating Scripture to validate their stand.
Others, however, saw within their commitment to Christ a mandate to do everything they could to stop the detestable practice and to help their captive fellow human beings escape to freedom. Many of them paid a terrible price in the process. Not only fleeing slaves but those who helped them were beaten, thrown into prison, and in some cases, even killed. They risked their reputations, their businesses, their families, their very lives to do what they passionately believed was right, according to a correct rendering of the Scriptures.
But it wasn’t always so. Though from the beginning of slavery in America some tried to aid in setting the captives free, the Abolitionist Movement was slow to take hold. One of the key factors in lighting the Abolitionist fires and growing the movement was a little novel, based on a true story, that pricked the conscience of many who had remained neutral on the issue.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (also called Life Among the Lowly) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was published in 1852 and helped raise American awareness and consciousness to the horrific plight of the slave and the depth of the evil of such a sin in our otherwise “free” country. It achieved its end, spurring many to join the abolitionist movement and adding volunteers for the growing Underground Railroad, a secretive system set in place to help escaping slaves on their journey northward, toward freedom.
A novel, based on real events. Isn’t that interesting? A truth-based story, used to help push an already divided nation into a bloody war, which ultimately led to the abolition of slavery in America.
Or did it?
When you consider that an estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world today (and yes, that includes the United States), more than at any time in human history, I’d say we still have our work cut out for us. Those 27 million people include some held in slave labor or forced military conscription, some for the purpose of sexual slavery, and even some for the involuntary harvesting of human organs, for which there is a huge black market. Many of those 27 million people are children, some as young as two years old. Most will never make it out alive, and if they do they will be so damaged that few will ever find true healing. And no, our country is not immune to any of this. The US State Department estimates that some 100,000 to 300,000 MINORS are held in sexual slavery in America right now—today.
Minors. That’s children! Enslaved, right here in the “land of the free.” Are you as appalled by that as I am? Do you hear Abraham Lincoln’s words echoing in your ears?
“Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature; opposition to it on his love for justice.”
Though our nation is not split over this issue as it was in the pre-Civil War days, the dividing line is clear: The selfishness of man’s nature vs. man’s love for justice. Is there any question where we, as Christians, should fall on this issue?
Of course not. And I don’t believe that any of us truly wrestle with the right or wrong of this horrific crime. The problem comes when we begin to grasp the evil and enormity of it, and we become overwhelmed at the magnitude of the battle.
And yet we can’t give up. However huge and dark the problem, we have a God who is bigger and whose Light can penetrate any depth of darkness. But we are His light-bearers in this dark world. If we don’t pick up the torch and shine that Light into the darkest, most depraved corners of our world, who will do so?
Minors. Children. Some as young as two years old. Trapped in a life they did not ask for, desperate and dying, without hope or help. For that is the goal of their captors from the moment they are sold or kidnapped or lured into such a despicable life—to drive out all hope of escape or rescue. Once the captors have done that, they have their slaves exactly where they want them.
But we, as believers, know the One who offers hope to all mankind—yes, even the worst of the worst, the abusers of those innocent, suffering victims. But if we are to bring that hope to bear in the midst of this hideous crime, we must be like Jesus, who as “moved by compassion.” He didn’t simply feel bad for those who suffered; He recognized their suffering and then offered the help and healing they needed.
Can we be content to do any less? It’s true that none of us can resolve this problem by ourselves. But if we will first educate ourselves about it and then ask God what He would like us to do, He will be faithful to answer.
Seriously, when I first began researching/writing The Freedom Series (Deliver Me From Evil; Special Delivery; The Deliverer) on this very topic, I had no idea where to start either. One of the best resources I found was the human trafficking page on the Department of Homeland Security’s website (http://www.dhs.gov/topic/human-trafficking), a great place to go to get educated about the problem. Then you might consider talking to your pastor to find out if your church (or another church or civic group in the community) is already involved in fighting this crime and helping to rescue and restore the victims. If there is, find out how you can get involved. If not, pray about getting such a ministry started. You can also check places online like International Justice Mission (http://www.ijm.org/) or the Salvation Army (http://tinyurl.com/cwrfygo), both of which are actively engaged in this fight against modern-day slavery, and offer numerous opportunities and suggestions for different levels of involvement.
As I said, no one individual or group can solve such a huge problem alone, but each of us can do something—and together we can make a difference. As Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and pricked the hearts of a nation, so we who love words can also get involved in the call to action. Whether writing books, short stories, articles, letters to the editor, volunteering a few hours a month at a safe house, talking to people in our church or community, we can add our voices to those crying out on behalf of the enslaved who have no voice. By being “moved with compassion” as Jesus was, we can help set the captives free and restore hope to the hopeless.