Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shining a Light on Slavery

For more than 15 years, Atlanta-based Passion conferences has been ministering to college-age students to build what it calls the “268 Generation.” The name is based on Isaiah 26:8, where the prophet says, “For Your name and renown are the desire of our souls.” The heart of Passion, say the organizers, is God’s glory, and God is most glorified in us when we live lives that are fully satisfied in Him.

As Passion has grown, so has its reach and impact. In recent years the ministry has led students not only to gather for large-scale worship and discipleship sessions, but also to put their faith into action by giving and participating in a number of social-justice causes.

The Passion 2012 gathering in Atlanta launched an initiative to address the problem of human trafficking. Some 40,000 students gathered at the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center, and donated more than $3 million in just four days. This year, Passion 2013 at the same location continued that effort, with 60,000 in attendance and another $3 million-plus raised to “shine a light on slavery” and “End It,” as the movement has officially become known.

I spent last week as a “Door Holder,” as Passion volunteers are called, working at one of 350 giving stations to process all this flow of cash and credit card transactions. These students heard some powerful stories throughout the week, and they came with broken hearts and open wallets. Some gave meager amounts, but clearly with the heart of the poor widow who Jesus said, “out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4). Others had spent months preparing, like the sweet young lady who came to my station with an envelope filled with $400 she had made in tips at a waitressing job. “My parents think I’m crazy,” she said, “but I know this is the right thing.”

As I thought about our consumer-driven culture and the way we Americans put so much effort into getting, it was incredibly refreshing to see so many committed to giving. And if we really think about the injustice and suffering that goes on around the world, how can we not give and get involved? As the new End It Movement website states:

You know it. We know it. As a country, we've officially known it since 1863. But here's something you might not know: Slavery still exists. We want every man, woman and child to know that there are 27 million men, women and children, just like them, living in the shadows. In brothels. In factories. In quarries. Working as slaves. In 161 countries. Including our own. We are here to shine a light on slavery. No more bondage. No more sex trafficking. No more child laborers. No more, starting now.

The thing about slavery is this: We’re all slaves of something. Even if you’re not a victim of human trafficking, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, you are a slave.  A slave to sin. That’s because every one of us is born into this world with a sinful nature, which we have no ability to overcome without Christ.

The apostle Paul said, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16) Those who believe in and live for Christ, he said, “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

So if you don’t know Jesus, you face worse circumstances than the earthly suffering of those 27 million, because you face an eternity separated from God. But He stands ready to forgive you and set you free. Want to know how? Please, click here.

If you do know Christ, will you get involved with God’s work “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6)? Will you help END IT?