This past week I had the opportunity to share about my 1½-year experience living and working in Thailand at a High School in Germany. For those who are reading this blog that don’t know, over the past 4 years I have been doing social justice ministry in S. Korea and Thailand, mostly with anti-trafficking NGO’s.
The theme of my presentation to the students was “Every Life Has Value.” I would also add that if I had to put this past 1½-years into a theme I feel this would be an appropriate title. That is because this theme is true, every life does have value. Every life matters, even the lives of the bad guys. This is one of the points of my presentation that I’m going to focus on in this blog.
Now some of you may be thinking, “the bad guys who do these unjust and corrupt things to the innocent of this world deserve to have horrible things done in return to them.” This is how I have thought for most of my life at least. But during this journey God has helped me to understand that He loves the villain too.
While He absolutely abhors what the villain does to the vulnerable, He ultimately desires to see their heart changed, for them to repent, and their desire to be in a relationship with Him, pursuing justice and righteousness. He desires all of His creation to worship Him and experience His love, even the villain.
I have met several of these villains from pimps, to Russian Mafia, madams, stepfathers, uncles, and johns. It can be easy to get angry or be afraid of these people because of what they do and the power and control they have of others. But they need Jesus’ love as much as the vulnerable I work with. All of them have a story and all of them are loved by God.
At the end of my presentation one of the students asked me a really good question that left me thinking for many days, which in turn became this blog. “How are you able to have compassion for the bad guys?” That was a really tough question for me because I honestly never thought about how I got to this point. My response to this question was, “Pray for them. The bible tells us to pray for our enemies. Over the years, as I have prayed for my enemies, usually the thing that happens is God begins to help me develop compassion for them.”
This question lead me to really think, pray, and try to understand God’s heart for the villain as I speak about how “Every Life Has Value.” Here are the things that I came up with during my time processing this question. I want to just clarify first that this is my understanding and so it may be wrong. Or maybe my understanding doesn’t work for your thinking. I want to encourage you to seek out the answers for yourself as well if this is a question that bothers you.
GOD’S CREATION OF MANKIND
God did not create the villain. Even Satan himself was not created as a villain. Satan chose to be Satan. No one is born with the desire to hurt another human. Every person is born with a sin nature but every person has the option to choose sin or righteousness.
God gave each human the right to choose; with His desire being we would choose Him. Every choice we make is a choice to live for ourselves or to live for God. When we choose to live for God we end up living a life that helps others, a life that is full of compassion, joy, and love. But when we choose to live for ourselves we usually end up hurting ourselves and or others. The villain decided to make the choice to live for himself or herself, over and over again, leading them down the path of becoming the person they are today.
Maybe you are thinking the villain can also decide to make different choices and begin to pursue justice and righteousness, but it’s not that easy. The villain needs help. Just like the vulnerable are enslaved to the villain the villain is too enslaved to the power, money, and control they are chasing. They are a slave to their bad choices. They are a slave to their sin and their pride is what keeps them locked up.
DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE
Another thought I had was that I cannot go around preaching and saying “every life has value,” if I don’t mean it for the villains too. Saying this sort of thing and not believing it for all people would be hypocritical of me.
In the bible there is a great story that can be found in John 8. It is the story of a woman who is caught in adultery. The religious leaders who brought her to Jesus wanted to stone her because the Law of Moses commanded this as the consequence for her sin. But Jesus replied by saying, “Let he who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Each person began to walk away one by one until only Jesus was left alone with the woman. Jesus could have stoned her. He was without sin. But he didn’t. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.’” (John 8:10-11)
I too have broken God’s heart. I too have chosen to live for myself at times and it has caused hurt to others. I have said words to people that have cut them deep. I have betrayed and let people I love down. These things disappoint God just as much as selling children for sex. I didn’t deserve to be forgiven but God had compassion on me and hasn’t given up on me even though I make mistakes all the time by choosing to live for myself instead of God.
The great news is that more and more people are beginning to understand this concept. Organizations new and old are starting to reach out to the villains and they are having success. People who were once causing injustices to the vulnerable are now living their lives for God. Prison ministries are finding great success as they go to prisons and share that God wants to give them a second chance. Pimps in villages in Cambodia are changing their ways and no longer selling children because of ministries that work with the vulnerable and the villain.
This is the result I hope to see become more prevalent as people continue to fight against the injustices of this world. I realize not everyone will choose the path of righteousness but my hope is that more will choose to live for God than don’t.