“A church that’s lost its voice for justice is a church that’s lost its relevance in the world.” (Richard Stearns, author of The Hole in Our Gospel)
As a young girl, I remember listening to missionaries speak to our church about their profound experiences while serving in developing countries around the world. Their riveting presentations helped instill an irrepressible passion for justice in me, which I desired to turn into a vocation as I grew up. Along the way, however, I began receiving the impression that people who gave up their income, sold their possessions, and left their countries to serve others were anomalies—they had some sort of special calling, while the rest of us were to be content with remaining in the pew.
Today, I consider this a fallacy. It’s erroneous to believe that the extent of a Christian’s calling is to merely avoid the most serious of sins and to show up to church on Sunday morning. Faith must have an element of action, an outward expression to some extent. Unfortunately, many churches today find themselves immobilized and detached from effective methods of engagement. Considering the total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion, it is obvious that “a lack of money is not our problem” (Richard Stearns). It’s a lack of will.
Retreating from the world’s problems is not an option for a person committed to following a God that calls for the “chains of injustice” to be untied (Isaiah 58). Sacrificing comfort, stability, and security in order to actively serve others was Jesus’ mission statement. With the Bible containing almost 2,000 passages pertaining to social justice, there is no rationalization for the Christian church’s apathy.
We can continue to pray for our missionaries, of course. And naturally, we can send away a portion of the contents of the offering plate to them. But what if a missionary didn’t have to be a person travelling thousands of miles across the ocean to foreign lands in order to ameliorate suffering? What if we used the ground we are walking upon–right here, right now–as our own personal mission field?
In Luke 4:18, we are called to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free.” That is why I am choosing to stand in solidarity with thousands of others in the Abolitionist Faith Community who want to combine spirituality with direct, concrete, and meaningful action—by Fasting For Freedom. During the 40 days of Lent, I am fasting from one meal a day and paying forward the amount of money I would’ve spent on that meal to Not For Sale. The funds Not For Sale receives will be invested into creating and growing social enterprises that employ survivors of human trafficking and empower vulnerable communities.
Not For Sale is founded upon a clear, solution-based principle: we all have a role in the modern-day abolitionist movement. We are all connected to the global slave trade, but we are also in the position to end it. If you’re a person of faith, put it to action. If you’re a student, then challenge your peers to become more educated and engaged. If you’re a consumer, then make your purchase your advocacy.
Faith does not have to be legalistic. Faith can transcend the rituals of attending church, studying scripture, and praying. It can become a results-producing, world-changing, slavery-ending social revolution.