“De Oppresso Libre – Free the Oppressed”
by Roger C.
History is filled with abuse, violence and slavery. The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt for 400 years and later again at the hands of the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. The British empire fostered a slave trade that lasted at least 400 years. The Holocaust saw the systemic extermination of millions. We are freshly resolving the American experience of slavery and its lingering impact on our fellow citizens. But history is also filled with courage of those God called to rescue the oppressed. Moses brought the Hebrews to the Promised Land; William Wilberforce and a team of abolitionists spent their lives to end the slave trade; Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke volumes against Nazi oppression at the cost of his own life; leaders today are speaking up for racial, gender and economic injustices. Men, we live in an age where chivalry and honor and noble deeds are not dead. We are His workmanship, created for good works, and can still take our broken pasts, and allow God to redeem it to His glory and the benefit of others.
A look at what is on the “heart of God” quickly leads to His repeated concern for the widows, the orphan and the foreigner. He hears the prayers of the oppressed and the enslaved. His loving kindness eagerly rescues the brokenhearted and imprisoned. If there is any group of people on this planet who the Lord cares deeply about, it is the sexually broken and exploited. The Book of Isaiah begins with a tremendous summary of what is on the heart of God.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause
~ Isiah 1:16-17
Many may feel great shame over active or passive support of the sexually exploitive industry I have mentioned. It is difficult to think you can make a difference in these issues, or you may wrestle with the honesty that you still enjoy visiting porn sites or seek sexing from others. Isiah has two very impactful passage related to this. In Isiah 57:5, he writes “…you who burn with lust among the oaks, under every green tree…”. The people of Isiah’s day openly followed other gods, often with “worship” that included temple prostitutes, at times “among the oaks.” The encouraging turn is found later in Isiah 61: 1-3, 7-8. Jesus read part of this passage when he began his public ministry in Luke 4:18-19.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he
has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our go; to
comfort all who mourn;…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he
may be glorified…instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice
in their lot…for I the Lord love justice ~ Is 61: 1-3,7-8
God graciously acknowledges that your place of deep shame, adulterous and idolatrous sexual brokenness can be redeemed to help set the captives free, remove your shame and dishonor, that you may be called “oaks of righteousness” and find great joy in Him. We know what it is like to be “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). God calls us to step into the broken world we are leaving, with empathy and action. As a fellow warrior, I am waging war against my own flesh in the foxhole with you. I know that one character trait I want to foster is my capacity for empathy, both for those I have personally hurt, and for those I have used. I don’t want to sit there, but I must. Empathy is important for growing into adulthood, counters our feelings of entitlement, and hopefully leads towards acts of repentance in making amends.
Where are you with all this? Does it move you? Our society gets very emotional and intentional about addressing issues with gun control, economic inequality, racism, and climate change, where there are imbalances of power with abuse against the vulnerable parts of society. What about this issue? Honestly, you may feel the quick conviction of Thomas Clarkson, who after writing a college essay, was moved to make abolition his life’s mission. Or you may feel the slow burn of conviction like John Newton, the pastor who wrote hymns like Amazing Grace, yet took forty years after he left the slave trade to begin to actively speak out against it. Men, this requires the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaking out against Nazi Germany and the perseverance of William Wilberforce. Change may take decades, but it is possible. Here are some of the current abolition efforts I discovered.
One of the more encouraging and exciting initiatives is an online petition to shut down Porn Hub. traffickinghub.com was started in February 2020 after Laila Mickelwait from Exodus Cry wrote an OpEd about Pornhub sex trafficking. The online petition went viral and currently has almost 2,000,000 signatures from people in 192 countries (out of 195 countries in the world), with a coalition of 250+ organizations, experts and survivors. Their goal is to change the narrative of the situation and weaken Pornhub’s brand; hold Pornhub accountable through criminal investigation and civil lawsuits; and challenge business relationships to weaken their support. This is exciting, not just because people have signed some petition, but because it is generating discussion and change. Over 250+ articles have been written about this campaign in 35 countries. Lawmakers and government officials are paying attention. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, has asked the government of Canada to prevent Pornhub from distributing illegal content. US Senator Ben Sasse penned a letter to the Department of Justice, calling for an investigation into Pornhub. 300 child protection, anti-trafficking, and women’s rights organizations have officially endorsed this fight. This is making a difference.
You may ask, what can I do to help? You may expand your understanding of “making amends” to look beyond your immediate family whom you have hurt, to those you have used. Perhaps our amends should include trying to make a difference as leaders in abolition against the very thing we enjoyed and God hates.
You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know ~ William Wilberforce
Sex, at its most basic level, is about a longing for connection. Nurture is the means through which we give and receive this desire for connection ~ Jay Stringer
The pursuit of purity is not about the suppression of lust, but about the reorientation of one’s life to a larger goal ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Let the thief steal no longer, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need ~ Ephesians 4:28
Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them ~ Ephesians 5:11