Human Trafficking and Hagar
I gazed at a horrific movie on human trafficking. Not my usual movie fare. I told myself “that’s not real; that’s hyped up Hollywood. Or if some elements are real, then it’s so far away and not happening here…” and so on with the rationalizations. However, the Lord brought to mind a Scripture passage, like an echo in my head: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV).
In a small group, I remember discussing that this type of “religion” could span to reach those with no voice, the forgotten, or those on the fringe of society. I knew that women and children in ancient times were marginalized, and some are still today. However, being the type of person that likes to fact check, I pulled out my laptop and started to research the realities of human trafficking. What started as a way to invalidate an “inconvenient truth” turned my world upside down.
Here’s what I found out:
In one month, the US government spends more on the war on drugs than it has in a decade for domestic and international programs against slavery. Oscar-winning actress, and co-star in “Trade of Innocents,” (another film about young girls caught in trafficking) and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight against Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino, was quoted as saying that human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar a year enterprise. It is tied only by the arms trading war on drugs.
The Polaris Project, one of the leading organizations in the fight to end human trafficking has a National Human Trafficking Human Resource hotline. Since December 7, 2007, they have received over 1,500 trafficking tip and crisis calls in the state of Texas alone. That’s over 1,000 more than all the boarding states of Texas combined.
What I discovered is that there is in fact a subversive and violent form of oppression going on around the world today and even in America known as human trafficking. Humans are bought for a price—a modern day form of slavery. Although it rarely makes headlines or the nightly news, it is happening every day in cities all across America and the world.
The reality of a woman being sold to a man for sex should grieve us, if we let it in. And that day with my comfy blanket, I let this horrible reality sink in. God was so providential in giving me a day off work to sort through my tumultuous feelings. I needed quiet and space to let my view of the world I thought I lived in die, to make room for the real one Jesus died to save. There was so much to process; I finally had to resort to writing a paper. This was not for a grade, but so my “hear no evil, see no evil” mindset could begin to assimilate this horror in a way I could digest.
As I began to research and then wonder what the Bible says about the marginalized, I noticed a woman named Hagar in Genesis. She was an Egyptian slave who was basically thrown to the side after she was used up for her “services.”
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She [Sarai] had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar.”
Sarai said [to her husband]“…Go in to my servant [Hagar]; may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Gen. 16:1-2, ESV).
Now, God had already promised Abram that he would give him an heir and make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:4-5). Perhaps things just weren’t moving fast enough for Sarai, or she thought God was going to bless them “using” her servant. Abram consented to this arrangement, slept with their slave, Hagar, and she became pregnant (v.4). Hagar’s situation was compounded after Sarai “looked with contempt on her mistress,” and Sarai “dealt harshly with her.” (surprise, surprise…)
So Hagar ran away.
Interestingly enough, in Hebrew, Hagar means “one who flees” or “one who seeks refuge.” An angel of the Lord found Hagar and her son by a spring of water in the wilderness (v.7). The angel spoke to her and encouraged her, saying that the child she carried would be named Ishmael, which means “God hears.” Her descendants would be so great that they could not be numbered. While the larger Abrahamic covenant of promise was certainly fulfilled, this contained prophecy to Hagar was also fulfilled, because the founder of Islam was known to trace his lineage back to Hagar and Ishmael.
Despite Hagar’s dire circumstances, God offered her compassion and hope. She was not forgotten, and she would not fade away into obscurity. So, she named the well where the angel appeared Beer-lahai-roi, which means “the well of the Living One who sees me.” Hagar was the first woman in the Bible to give God a name. “El Roi” is one of the names of God, meaning “the God who sees.” Hagar found hope in the midst of her horrible circumstances by knowing that El Roi saw her and cared for her.
To anyone who has felt marginalized, criminalized, or abandoned, whether it is because of slavery, looks, weight, race, gender, whatever the case may be, in Christ Jesus, the promised Son, there is not only hope, but also redemption. Your current situation does not have to be the final chapter in your story. I will not deny that slavery is a hopeless, lonely, crippling place to be… except by the power of Christ.
When we submit to Christ’s provision of grace and promise of authority, it is like a Niagara Falls kind of hope and power. No human on earth could withstand this rush, this force. When we submit to Jesus and His absolute authority in our lives, no power of someone else’s sin, or of our own response to their sin, or our own personal sin can withstand. He is stronger. The blood He shed on the cross for our sin is greater. No power of Hell, nor of Earth is stronger than us when we submit to Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the grave to set captives free. One cry of help to Him is sufficient to begin to move the heavens.
Just as we find freedom from the chains of our own strongholds, there is real and literal freedom for those who are still physically imprisoned by oppressors. God’s arm is not too short to save us, and it is not too short to abolish trafficking by sending His people to care, pray, give, and reach out a part of God’s rescue team (Is. 59:1). Jesus is all-powerful against our ignorance, apathy, or even our own criminal hearts. He is El Roi. He sees, and He is still able to comfort and save.
For those who may have never felt marginalized, but perhaps have been passive toward those far far away horror stories, as we see from the facts, we have to unplug our ears and open our eyes, because the horrors are happening both abroad and at home.
The prophet Amos warns us that God is returning to judge the nations that have transgressed, oppressed, or turned a blind eye to suffering. “Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals- those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go into the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned” (Amos 2:6-7, ESV). As believers, we do NOT have the luxury of turning a blind eye to the abuse that is human trafficking.
Maybe you’re like me, and initially resistant to the extreme, frightening nature of human trafficking. I’m not sure what particular call to action(s) the Lord will lead you to, but be aware that a biblical prophet warns, “Behold the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, ESV). There is nothing I can imagine worse that to turn a deaf ear to the Word of God and reach a point where I simply no longer hear His voice at all!
I know it took me time and the right space to allow myself to feel the sickening reality and become spiritually disturbed for these men, women, and children that are “image bearers” of God being sold like objects (Gen 1:27). But better late than never to peel the hands off of our eyes and pull the fingers out of our ears, together. Let’s ask God, together, to give us a heart of compassion that rolls like justice and moves like a mighty rushing river (Amos 5:24).
Heavenly Father, You created us to bear Your image and likeness. Please forgive us for the cruelty, apathy, and insensitivity we have permitted to continue around the world, whether that is next door or the next plane ride away. We do not want to live in a famine of Your beautiful word! So, please help us to be spiritually disturbed and changed. Help us to do good to the orphan, the widow, and the marginalized in this modern age. Show us how we can be Your arms to abolish slavery… in Jesus Name, Amen.
By Tricia Moton with Shabby Chic Ministries
Live it out:
- Have you been hurt? Carve your own quiet space and tell God. He knows, but as you consider Him, He can lead you to a well of healing for your heart today. He empathizes: Hebrews 2:16-18, NLT. Listen to Plumb’s song Need You Now.
- Have you plugged your ears and covered your eyes? Take a look around you. Pray that God would make the injustice of human trafficking as repulsive to you as it is to Him. Ask for wisdom to address the injustice of slavery with boldness and with Christ’s love in the capacity that you can.
- How might you have marginalized someone else? If not human-trafficking, but … perhaps you’ve treated others as though they were less intelligent, less beautiful, less productive, or less valuable because they walk down the street in a hoodie? Confess this, and ask God to help you become a spring of healing in the lives of others.
- Watch and Pray: Let’s stay compassionate together and ask the God who sees to use us as we read and watch what’s going on around the globe: Article / Blog / Film / Pray. Please share any other current news articles, facts or blog posts about human-trafficking in the comments below!
http://www.shabbychicministries.com. Used by permission.