If you believe what you like about the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. —Saint Augustine
PRAYER : (from the Lectionary)
“Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without You, may be enabled to live according to Your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
PRAYER FOCUS: Thinking and Doing Right
A few years ago, I was talking to a particular pastor, discussing the youth in his church. I inquired about his message to them regarding sex before marriage. He replied that there wasn’t much use in telling them not to have sex—they get the opposite message everywhere they turn. He expressed his opinion that they were going to do it no matter what he said, and reasoned he might as well save his breath. I challenged him to take a stand, to spend his breath, regardless.
He shrugged and said, “It is what it is.”
Those words should sicken us. As Christians, we aren’t supposed to accept the world as it is. We are never supposed to be satisfied here, or to be on peaceful terms with the fallen world around us. While other worldviews and religions offer an explanation for why and how this world “is what it is,” Christianity offers us something far higher. With the prophets, with Jesus Christ, every story and parable and passage in Scripture declares: “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!”
Why should we shrink from telling our youth that what they see on Reality TV is not only unreal, it is also not right? There is a large body of evidence to highlight the emotional and physical toll early sexual activity can cause. In today’s age of social media, careless encounters are broadcast to the world in an instant, causing very real damage. Fifty percent of teens know someone who has suffered relationship coercion or abuse that began with digital images. Such statistics are astonishing, especially when you consider the links between such activity leading to higher risk behaviors, including pornography, prostitution, and attempted suicide.
How can we take a stand on the great moral issues of our day if we can’t stand before our own teenagers with the biblical truth? If we fail at that, how can we expect to prepare them to stand against and avoid sexual exploitation themselves?
Prayer is our first response. A praying Christian refuses to come to terms with an unjust, evil world. A praying Christian stands in the gap between the minds of youth and the unholy ideas that would corrupt their thinking. We kneel before an Almighty and Sovereign God and surrender to His will, and not to the way of the world. From the suffering and triumph of the Risen Christ we gain the courage to turn and face His enemies with purpose and resolve. We begin to change the world, one act at a time.
But then we must act. Like the prophet Isaiah, we answer the call to “learn to do right, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isa 1:17).
• Approximately one million children will enter into the global sex trade this year, most of them by force. (UNICEF)
• Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. (UNICEF)
• The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion. (U.N. Council on Human Rights)
• After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
• There are an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women and men trafficked across international borders annually. Eighty percent are young women and girls; half of them are minors (U.S. Department of State). That’s not just a number. That’s 800,000 lives torn apart and destroyed in unimaginable ways.
More children, women and men are held in slavery right now, today, than were alive in slavery over the course of the entire 18th and 19th century trans-Atlantic slave trade. As you read this, millions toil in bondage, their work and their bodies the property of an owner.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, one of the fastest-growing sex trade cities in the world is—Houston. Mexican and Guatemalan drug gangs kidnap illegal immigrant women and force them into prostitution for gang members and other illegal immigrants, right under the noses of American authorities. Ironically, pro-immigration rights church leaders often interfere with law enforcement that would otherwise interrupt this criminal activity.
We hear a lot from Christian organizations expressing concerns about “social justice” and women’s rights. But we hear very little about the one of the most glaring evils of our time. There are few issues today that approach the injustice and depravity of slavery in the 21st Century.
What can we do?
We kneel in prayer. When we petition Almighty God to deliver His children in bondage, we do so with the expectation that He will deliver them to real freedom. We ask our Father-God to show us how we can help, and we move obediently in response to Him. We can send money, including direct tithes and offerings, to agencies like the International Justice Mission that fight slavery on a global scale. But if we want to change the world, we must begin on our knees.
We do not shrug our shoulders and whimper, “It is what it is.”
We worship an Almighty and Everlasting God who spoke this world into being. He tells us over and over again in his Word that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. And so we pray for what we see, and also for yet-unseen possibilities. We pray to un-think the deceptions and twisted moral frameworks that would bind us to Creation’s fall and not its redemption. We pray to think and to do what is right. We pray for the grace of God the Father and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. We join Jesus the Son who crushes fear and injustice.
Your prayers, Christian, unleash the absolute power of the Holy Trinity. This is why the prophet Isaiah declared, and our Lord Jesus repeated, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
It’s Monday Morning. Do you want to change the world this week? Pray to have the courage of your convictions. Walk in grace. Speak with power. Pray constantly. Do what is right.