Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014.
Available at Amazon.com By Kara Martin
Eddie Byun’s book, Justice Awakening, gives such a biblical response to this issue, as well as optimistically claiming to teach, “How you and your church can help end human trafficking”.
That is what is different about this book. While others, like David Batstone’s excellent Not for Sale, have highlighted the problem, Byun wants to energise the church to become a significant part of the solution.
He has his share of scary statistics in motivating the church to act: every eight seconds someone is sold into slavery, 80% of them women and children. This is an issue that impacts one million people a year, in every nation on the planet.
It takes the form of human smuggling, kidnapping, coercion, rape, drugging, imprisonment, exploitation for sex, forced labour, or even the removal of organs.
While women and children are most vulnerable, this can be compounded if they are refugees, or poor, or orphans.
Byun begins by pointing out that justice is part of God’s character: “For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18b). And that God’s solution to injustice (sin) is the cross, quoting John Stott:
By bearing himself in Christ the fearful penalty of our sins, God not only propitiated his wrath, ransomed us from slavery, justified us in his sight, and reconciled us to himself, but thereby also defended and demonstrated his own justice.
The cross points to the ultimate solution to injustice: final judgment. In the meantime, God works through his people, the church to bring justice now.
Byun believes the church has three ways to help deal with the injustice of the modern slave trade:
Look to God in faith for forgiveness of our own sin.
Pray that those who spread injustice will put their hope in God.
Love the victims of injustice, and the perpetrators.
He names the common objections he faces to his church being involved in such justice issues: “It is not the church’s role”, “Let the experts handle it”, or “Church’s should stick to the gospel”.
Byun sees fighting for justice as a tangible expression of the gospel, in seeking to overcome evil, in demonstrating love, and in dealing with the moral and spiritual causes of trafficking, which include lust, greed and idolatry.
Compellingly, he argues that when the church takes on this issue, it is revealing God: “When we seek justice, show mercy, give generously and extend kindness, what we are doing is showing people what our God looks like.”
Byun is speaking from experience. He pastors a church that has shaped itself around fighting human slavery, and he has seen the church energised and growing in faith, as it reaches out and rescues. In the last four years it has focused on six areas:
Researching and investigating
Networking with strategic partners
Restoration and healing through prayer, counseling and safe housing
Rescuing and prevention through education and job creation.
Justice Awakening is full of the personal stories of those who have been rescued and restored, as well as practical ideas for action under the six focus areas.
Byun’s church is in South Korea where the problem is significant. His challenge is for the reader to find those who are vulnerable in our midst. It might be asylum seekers working illegally in restaurants, those in red light districts, overseas students tricked into prostitution to pay off tuition fees, or nannies trapped on low wages because of their illegal immigrant status.
Although this book focuses on a single issue, it is an effective reminder to the church globally to become more aware of our need to reflect the God of justice, not just with our words, but also with our actions. However, there may be a danger for churches in reorienting themselves around justice if Jesus is not kept at the centre as the inspiration, the reason, the source of what they do.
This is not a deep theological analysis, or even a systematic treatment of a subject, but it is full of Byun’s passion and modelling. There are so many ideas for action that no church has any excuse, because, “You have been given liberty, knowledge, wealth and influence for such a time as this. There is a time to read history, and there is a time to make history… set the captives free!”
KARA MARTIN is the Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute, Ridley Melbourne, has been a lecturer with Wesley Institute and is an avid reader and book group attendee. Kara does book reviews for Eternity Magazine.