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Eddie Byun: Justice Special

From the series Culture Shock

Chip has invited his good friend, Pastor Eddie Byun from South Korea, to share a message on ending human sex trafficking. Don’t miss Eddie’s powerful story, and his suggestions of what we can do to make a difference.

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Message Transcript

There is a story of a farmer who had a dog and this dog was a faithful companion of his for many, many years. And this farm was very large and this dog was faithful to the point of not only greeting his master whenever he would come home, but also fetching his newspaper and various things like that.

And one day the farmer went into the city and the dog decided to explore some new terrain within their home. And as he was exploring throughout the fields, he came across a dead well, the well had dried up and it was pretty deep.

But suddenly, as the dog was sniffing further, he fell into this well. And it was very deep. And so there was no way for him to get out. And so he was crying, weeping, and to no avail.

The farmer came home and he thought it was very strange that his dog was not there to greet him. First time in many years that that happened. And so he was looking for his dog and he heard the whimpering sound of his dog.

And so as he saw him down in this well, the farmer was in a dilemma because he did not use the well for many years, there was no bucket and there was no way for him to reach down. Obviously, he could not go down, otherwise, he too would be stuck.

And so the farmer came across this great idea. You know, I’ll start throwing dirt in this hole and then the dog will keeping stepping over this dirt and eventually he will be out and safe. And so that’s what he started to do. He started to throw dirt down this hole.

And as the dog saw his master, he was happy that he finally there to save him. But then he saw the master throwing dirt on top of him. And the dog started getting angry. It’s like, What are you doing? After all my years of loyalty to you, you are trying to bury me alive? And so he was getting angry.

And so the master kept throwing dirt and the dog was like, I am smarter than you because I will keep moving away from the dirt and I will step on top of it. And so this kept happening and he was getting higher and higher. The master was so excited because the dog was getting closer. And the dog was getting more and more excited because, I am going to get my revenge on you.

And so finally, once the dog was able to be in reach, the master reached out and hugged him. And the dog, his heart melted too. And he was able to forgive.

Now, in many ways we are like that dog in the midst of life’s surprises, and uncertainties, in the midst of God’s sovereignty, of not really knowing what is happening and why things are happening. But we can be reassured that there is a master plan, even in the midst of some things within our lives that seem like utter despair.

There are a lot of things in this world that, when we look at it, it seems incredibly evil and even cruel. But still, within the evil, there is within our faith to understand that there is a sovereign plan of God that desires to work through and even orchestrate through these evils to bring about ultimate good.

Now, in our generation, there is an evil called “human trafficking” where human beings are bought, sold, traded as commodities for the selfish use and many times, even for the selfish destruction of other people.

And in the midst of myself and our church, growing aware of these evils, it became clear that, as we were praying about what we can do about this evil, that even in the midst of this darkness, that God had a plan that He desired to orchestrate through this evil to bring about good.

And I believe part of that plan, a big part of that plan, to counter the evil of human trafficking in our day is the Church of Jesus Christ. And when we first started engaging this evil and started pursuing justice, I was surprised because I got a lot of backlash from an unsuspecting group that I would have never dreamed being against what we were trying to do, and that was the Evangelical community.

Because when I first started pursuing justice for the trafficked victim, our church also started, in a similar time period, also pursuing justice for a lot of other people, such as the orphan, the North Korean refugee, the single moms, the homeless, and all of these other groups. We were starting to get a lot more active in being the hands and feet of Christ within our communities and in our streets.

And so I got this one email one day from another pastor saying, “Eddie, I’ve never heard you preach, but I heard a lot about what your church is doing. That you are helping all these people, that you are doing a lot of justice stuff and that’s great. But because of how much justice stuff you’re doing, it’s clear, though I have never heard you preach a sermon, it’s clear that you are a social gospel preacher. So it is my duty, I feel, as a brother in Christ, to tell you, Eddie, why don’t you repent and go back to living the true gospel.”

I was stunned and I was surprised. And these were the types of responses that I kept getting time and time again. And it was surprising for me, because when I first found out about these issues, I never had to debate, Do we need to do something? Does the Church have a role in this? It was clear for me that despite the evil that God clearly had a plan for the Church to be engaged in the fight and pursuit for freedom and justice.

And so what I want to guide us through today is in response to a lot of opposition that I got, even from other churches, is I want to give us a proper biblical mandate and proper biblical foundation of understanding why not only the Church needs to be involved, why we need to lead this fight for freedom and justice in our day.

And so the first reason that I see in Scripture, the first thing that I will guide us through today as to why we need to be engaged in this, is that this fight for freedom and justice, that this is the mission of God. So can we all repeat? The mission of God.

All right. So this is the mission of God. In this fight against human trafficking, which I see as one of the greatest evils of any generation, this is my firm conviction that we must not only be involved, but we must lead the way.

And why do I say, “We must lead the way in this fight for freedom”? Because true freedom and justice can only come through the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, the mission of Jesus was to set captives free. Romans 6 tells us that, “Thanks be to God, that though you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, you have now become slaves of righteousness.”

So what we see here is that we were all enslaved, in bondage, to sin and Jesus Christ saw this, knew this, that this bondage would lead to ultimate destruction and hell forever, and so He came in order to set us free from the bondage of sin.

And so Christ came to be our atoning sacrifice, not only setting us free in this physical world, but to set us free for all of eternity. To be able to obey from the heart as we see Romans 6 tell us.

And Jesus also reveals His mission before the start of His public ministry in quoting Isaiah, in Luke 4:18 and 19 when He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So Jesus Christ came to set people free from the bondage of sin. And now this has become our mission and our message to declare to the world as well. Because what are the real issues when we think about human trafficking, when we think about modern day slavery, and sex trafficking today? What are the real issues that we are up against?

It is a spiritual issue, it is a moral issue, it is a heart issue that must be engaged also in the spiritual realm. Because what is really driving this industry? It is the lust of the Johns, the customers who are bound to the lust of the flesh. It is the greed of the traffickers and the pimps. They are bound to the lust and the love of money.

There is also the issues of the self-hatred and the shame of the victims that keep them bound, emotionally and mentally. The hopelessness of the imprisoned, the suffering of all who are still on the road to recovery. Everyone is in bondage in this issue. And only Christ can set them free.

You see? You can put every single customer, pimp, and trafficker in jail today and that will not eliminate the core essence of what is driving this industry. Because it is a heart issue, it is a spiritual issue.

So even though we can put them all in jail today, they will still be bound by the ultimate prison of these spiritual sins. And the Church alone has the only message that can truly set them free, not only physically, but spiritually and for all of eternity.

You see, what the Church is called to do on our mission is to declare the gospel, yes, but also we are called to demonstrate the gospel. You see, the gospel must be verbal but it must also be visible.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is clear that the utmost primary and important part of the gospel is to verbally declare the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That there is no other name in heaven and earth through which people can be saved, except through faith in Christ and Christ alone. So that is a non-negotiable.

But what we also see throughout Scripture and throughout the life of Jesus, that faith without works is dead. That there must be a demonstration, as well as a declaration, of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the mission that Christ has given to us to do as well.

And what we learn in Psalm 89:14 also is that it declares that, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne.” That His kingdom is built upon the pillar foundations of justice and righteousness. That is the foundational mission of God’s kingdom and God’s people.

There is a mission of one fire station in the United States that declares that their mission is to save lives, property, and resources. And what we learned also during 9/11 is that when the towers were falling and it was a dangerous situation, everyone fled the towers, even though surrounding, the blocks, they fled the towers except the firefighters. Why? Because their mission was to save lives.

And being in that role meant sometimes you need to head into dangerous places. You need to head into some dark places because that is part of the mission of who you are as firefighters.

And part of fulfilling the mission that Jesus has given to us will also mean sometimes God will call some of us to go to some dangerous places, to go to some dark places.

Because if we are really going to finish the mission that Christ has given us to do, then that means that some of us need to go to some dark and ugly places, because those are the places that are in desperate need of the gospel. The dark places are where the light is meant to shine.

So that is why we need to be engaged in this dark evil of our generation. Because this is the mission of God. But not only that, another reason why we need to be leading this fight for freedom and justice is because this is the voice of God. So can we all repeat? This is the voice of God.

I often hear people saying in this justice movement that we need to be a voice for the voiceless. And I totally understand what they mean. That’s biblical, that’s from Proverbs 2, that there is a voice of the oppressed that is being silenced or people cannot hear their cries for help. And so we need to echo their voices so that their voice can be heard.

But, as believers, I believe that more than being a voice to the voiceless, or of the voiceless, that we, as people of God, are called to be the voice of God to this nation and to our generation.

You see, we are in this battle, not just to answer the cry of the victim, we are in this battle to answer the cry of God’s heart who desires to see, “Justice rolled down like mighty rivers,” Amos 5:24.

Our voice must represent the voice of God to our world. And this is God’s voice that declares Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good.” Now notice he says, “Learn to do this,” because a lot of times, we don’t know what to do initially. We don’t know how to do good, we don’t know how to demonstrate the gospel.

And so he tells us, “Learn it. Learn to do good.” Seek justice, correct oppression. When you see wrong and oppression, correct it. Bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. That is the voice of God to the Church.

So when we declare that the child growing in the womb is sacred life, that must be protected and honored, we are declaring God’s voice for the unborn, God’s voice that honors life, from the womb to the tomb, all of life is sacred. Amen?

And when we declare that adoption is a beautiful thing, that we honor the orphan, that we honor adoption because we have all been adopted. And adoption is a beautiful thing because God has created it to be the means through which we become children of God. That is God’s voice we are declaring into this world when we honor adoption.

And so more than it being our hearts or our desire or our voice, we need to declare God’s voice to our world.

Psalm 82:3 and 4 tells us, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. This is God’s voice that must be heard.”

And one of the roles of the Church is to declare God’s voice and God’s heart for the oppressed and for those who are being harmed in this way.  And in Korea where I currently serve, this issue has been ignored and left silent for far too long. But I find it strange that the Church is absent of these issues, because if you are unaware, in South Korea, South Korean women are the number one trafficked group into Australia and Japan and five years ago, South Korean women were the number one trafficked group into the United States.

That you will find, not only in every major big city, but even in these smaller cities throughout the U.S. you will find victims all around the world and unfortunately even in our American high schools they are seeing sex trafficking on the rise where even older teens are now pimping out and trafficking younger girls within our high schools.

This is an issue that can’t be ignored. Also in South Korea there are one million women and children, mostly girls, unfortunately, one million women and girls who are in sex slavery in this country that I serve in. Ten million customers per year who visit, not just the red-light districts, but these other forms where sex slavery happens, like massage parlors, karaoke bars, VIP room parlors, nail salons, barber shops. One million victims within our country.

Ten million customers, eighty percent married men. And who are these victims? We are currently making a sex trafficking documentary on South Korea, which should be finished by fall of this year.

We did a lot of interviews and what we found out is so many of these women and girls who are victimized, their background? Most come from broken homes and in one of the largest red-light districts in South Korea and you need to keep in mind that prostitution is technically illegal in this country, but there are red-light districts all over the place. One of the largest red-light districts in all of Korea where more than five hundred women and girls are forced to work, eighty percent of them are orphans.

Almost one hundred percent of them, they were violated by a family member before the age of ten. And so how is the Church not involved in these issues? Most of these girls, they ended up being sex trafficked because of the abuse and violation that happened when they were young and led them, forced them out of the homes onto the streets by the time they were twelve or thirteen years old.

And while they are on the streets, they get picked up by traffickers. And so these girls, they are not there by choice. No one chooses prostitution as a profession by choice. No little girl in any country in this world, when they are five, six, seven, eight years old says, “Mommy, Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a prostitute.” No one does that.

There are circumstances and there is great pain that has forced them to choose that lifestyle in a way that most of them, if they had an opportunity, would have never gone down that road.
No one chooses prostitution as a profession by choice. No little girl in any country in this world, when they are five, six, seven, eight years old says, “Mommy, Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a prostitute.” No one does that.

There are circumstances and there is great pain that has forced them to choose that lifestyle in a way that most of them, if they had an opportunity, would have never gone down that road.

And so we need to see it in its proper light. And we need to understand that so many of them, it does impact and it must be on the radar of our churches. For our children’s ministries, for our youth ministries, for our men’s ministries, because you need to understand, guys, we are driving the demand.

The lust, the pornography, the porn industry, that too is fueling the industry of sex trafficking. So this affects our men’s ministry, this affects our women’s ministry, this affects our single moms and single parent ministries. This affects our orphan care ministries.

You see, these places of darkness are in need of light to shine within them. And you are salt, you are light, you are change agents within society. And we must be God’s voice representing God’s heart to our city.

Saying to these women, to these girls, to these boys, and even men who are victim, that you are loved! That you are precious! That you are beloved! That you are not forgotten! That you are not trash! Who will speak the truth of God’s heart into the lives of these people? The government will not do it, the police will not do it. Even the rescuers of these NGOs they will not do it. It is the role of the Church to be God’s voice representing God’s heart, to speak truth into these lives so that the truth can set these women free.

They are not trash. They are not sluts. They are precious in the eyes of God. They are loved. They have a purpose. They were created for a reason. And they are beautiful. And so you and I, as the people of God, as the body of Christ, representing Christ, we need to be His voice to these people.

And that is not all. Another reason why we must lead this fight for freedom and justice, because this is the image of God. So everyone repeat: This is the image of God.

Another key reason why the Church must lead this fight is that this is what our God looks like. He is a defender of the weak, He is a fighter for those who are oppressed, Psalm 146, from verse 5 says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; He,” our God of Jacob, “who executes justice for the oppressed,” this is what our God does, “He gives food to the hungry. He cares for the poor, the Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourner, the foreigner, the alien. He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked, He brings to ruin.”

This is our God! He loves the oppressed! He loves those who are weak and bowed down. So when we seek justice and show mercy and generosity and kindness, what we are doing is showing people what our God looks like.

Whenever I do go to a new place to speak, a lot of times they will ask, “How would you like to be introduced?” I teach in a seminary but usually I don’t mention that. I’m an editor for a devotional magazine, I usually don’t mention that. What I usually say, “You can just introduce me as a pastor of OEM: Onnuri English Ministry, which I pastor in South Korea, because that is my primary occupation. That’s my primary job in terms of what I do.

Now, there are a lot of other things that I describe myself as, but that is my primary thing. And if I were to ask, “What do you do?” A lot of times you will give me your business card and whatever is written on it, that is your primary role as well.

And how does God like to introduce Himself? All throughout Scripture, do you know how our God introduces Himself? As the One who is a defender of the fatherless, and the widow, and the oppressed.

Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is God of god and Lord of lords. The great, the mighty, the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow. He loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

For God, one of the main things that He loves to tell the world of who He is, is that He is a defender of the weak, that He cares for those who are oppressed, and for the vulnerable of our world.

And time and time again, Psalm 103, “The Lord works justice and righteousness for the oppressed.” Deuteronomy 27, “Cursed be anyone who perverts justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.”

So time and time again, you will see throughout Scripture, these two put together: the fatherless and the widow. Why? Who were the fatherless and the widow? They were the most vulnerable in society. Because, unfortunately, all property and land, it went through the male line.

So that is why Naomi called herself “bitter,” because her husband and sons died and so now Ruth and Naomi, they were fatherless, they were widows, and they were vulnerable. So basically, the fatherless and the widow were the most vulnerable within society.

And one of the things that we learned about God’s heart in this, is that the more vulnerable people were, the more valuable they were to God’s heart. They were the ones who gained God’s attention even more. And so in our society as well, the more deeply vulnerable people are, the more deeply valuable they need to be to the heart of the Church. Amen?

So doing the good work of God shows others the goodness of God in this. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds” – and then what? “glorify our Father in heaven.”

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. “No one hides a lamp,” Jesus tells us. Meaning you don’t stay away from dark places, you shine into them. Trafficking today is one of the darkest things in existence and it is one of the most evil things the world has ever seen.

And I believe one of the key reasons why trafficking has become so huge, so widespread, and so evil is because the Church has been absent in this fight for far too long.

Because you and I have the only true solution through the person and gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is my firm conviction that if we, the Church, are not the preeminent leaders in this fight for justice, and in the demonstrations of mercy to the oppressed, if we are not the leaders in this fight, then we are allowing the world to look more like Jesus than we do.

Because for far too long, James clearly tells us, “Care for the orphan,” but we have left it to the agencies. The Word of God clearly tells us to feed the poor, but we have left that to governments. The Word clearly tells us to seek and help the fatherless, the widow, the oppressed, the marginalized, the victimized, the vulnerable. And we, as the Church, have left it to the NGOs, to the governments, to all these other groups. You take care of them. And that needs to end and we need to take up God’s mandate for the Church to be the Church, to be His body, to be His heart to the most vulnerable, to those who are deeply valuable to His heart once again.

That is our role. And we must stop giving it to the government and NGOs to take care of. And if you don’t like the word “justice,” because I found out that the Evangelical world, they get very uncomfortable with that word sometimes, even though it is very biblical, if you don’t like that word, that’s fine. Then we really have to see this as simply loving our neighbors as ourselves.

One of our key partners in Cambodia, AIM, they did a rescue of a young girl recently who was trafficked. And from the day that she was taken, the whole agency, they were looking for her in different brothels, different street corners, all these different alleyways they were looking for her.

And they found her twenty-two days later, which is not too bad, right? Because some victims, they are never found. Some people, they are not found for months or years later. So twenty-two days later, they found her, they rescued her. Not too bad, right?

But after they rescued her they interviewed her to find out what happened and within those twenty-two days, she had been violated one hundred and ninety-eight times. And that is when we discovered one girl is too many. And one day is too long.

And that is why we must end slavery in our lifetime. This is the image of God that the world needs to see.

But there is one more reason that I want to guide us through today as to why we must lead this fight. And that is because this is the move of God in this hour. So can we all repeat? This is the move of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” For every season of injustice, throughout the centuries, God has been calling forth faithful men and women who would respond to His call for justice in that hour.

In his book, Issues Facing Christians Today, John Stott reminds us that whenever God’s people have been effective and salt and light in a community there has been less social decay and more social uplift. In fact, in the United States, for example, after the nineteenth century awakening associated with Charles Finney, born again Christians were on the forefront of every major social reform throughout the nation.  He spearheaded the abolitionist movement, the temperance movement, and the peace movement.

John Wesley, he was best remembered for his preaching. But through his preaching, he influenced the Church to challenge and change society. He fought to bring and end to cruelty and torture of animals, he fought against the African slave trade, he fought against the kidnapping of fellow countrymen, for the sale of men as slaves to other countries.

He was a voice against gambling and against corruption of government and many other evils of his day. He was called both a preacher of the gospel and a prophet for social righteousness.

William Wilberforce is best known for the ending of the transatlantic slave trade. But he was also a social reformer. He was nicknamed “The Prime Minister” of a cabinet of philanthropists. And at one time, he was actively pursuing justice for sixty-nine social causes.

He gave away twenty-five percent of his income to the poor. He fought for the right of young boys not to have to work dangerous jobs such as chimney sweeps. And he brought so much reform to help the poor, for the single mom, for the orphan and to establish Sunday schools throughout his city as well.

So for the Church, this is in our DNA and this is in our history. And this is another season that God is calling forth His Church to lead the way for justice and righteousness.

And in this hour, what you need to understand is there are more slaves today than in any other period in human history. And we are in another season and hour where God is calling forth men and women of faith who will respond to His call for justice in this season of injustice.

If you would have asked me just a few years ago about human trafficking, I would have looked at you like you were speaking a foreign language. But it is clear that God is bringing this issue in this hour like never before.

In his book, The Meeting of the Waters, Fritz Kling, what he did is he traveled around the world to different countries all around the world. And all he did is simply observe and want to ask and answer this question: What is the Spirit of God doing in the Church around the world?

And so he even went to North Korea, he went to Iraq, he went all around the world from South America to South Africa, everywhere in between, and all he did is visit the churches there and observe what is the Spirit of God leading the Church to do?

And so he compiled his data and he summarized it into seven key, what he called, “streams,” or “currents,” or “moves of the Spirit.” And the number one current that he saw the Spirit of God leading the Church into, globally, was a pursuit of justice, compassion, and mercy.

In places that are closed, not connected, not communicating, he saw the Spirit doing the same thing around the world. This is a new season of justice that God is calling His Church to pursue.

And we need to understand that this nation and this generation is under severe attack like never before. And we need to ask ourselves: Who will fight for this nation? Who will fight for this next generation? We must fight in the place of prayer. We must fight and pursue freedom and justice for them.

Because I do not want to leave these evils as an inheritance for my son’s generation. And I will not just stand by and let the enemy steal, kill, and destroy this nation and this generation any longer. Yes, these are dark and evil days. But “Jesus Christ came to deliver us from this present evil age,” as Galatians 1 tells us.

You see, we don’t have time to play make believe Christianity anymore. Not in this day. Not in this hour. Too much is at stake here. A generation is at stake. It’s time to take back what is ours. Psalm 2 tells us, “Ask of Me and I will give the nations as your inheritance.” So the nations belong to those who pray for it. They are our inheritance.

This nation of America does not belong to the enemy, amen? Its destiny is not for suicide; its destiny is not for abortion, abandonment, or imprisonment; this nation does not belong to the enemy. It belongs to the Church who prays for it and to Jesus who died for it.

So we must fight for this nation and this generation, and to take it back in His name. We are living in a special moment in human history and history records and remembers those who fight for the things of God’s heart in the place of justice and righteousness.

History honors and remembers men and women who have risen to that challenge. We honor the Harriet Tubmans of this world, who freed thousands of slaves through the Underground Railroad. We honor the William Wilberforces of this world, the abolitionist who fought to end the slave trade after a forty-six year fight.

History honors them, for they fought for the things of God’s heart. In a generation of injustice, they rose to the challenge and obeyed God’s call for justice in that hour. We need to ask ourselves: What if it were happening today? What if you and I lived in that time period? We always assume when we read history that we would have stood behind and stood next to the heroes of history. We always assume that.

During Abraham Lincoln’s day, yeah, when he fought for civil rights, yeah, we would have been there by his side. William, oh yeah, when we see the movies about Wilberforce, yeah, I would have been by his side! But you know what? What is happening today is far larger, greater, and more evil than the days of Wilberforce. What are we doing about it?

History records and remembers and honors those who fought for the things of God’s heart.

Something that David Batstone wrote woke me up to this situation like never before. And I want to read you the words that awakened this sleeping soldier.

He says:

There are times to read history, and there are times to make history. We live right now at one of those epic moments in the fight for human freedom. We no longer have to wonder how we might respond to our moment of truth.

It is we who are on the stage and we can change the winds of history with our actions. Future generations will look back and either be inspired or disappointed when they look upon our generation.

You and I have been given liberty, influence, wealth, power, knowledge for such a time as this. There is a time to read history and there is a time to make history. And now is the time for you and I to make slavery history.

There is a time and season for everything and the time for justice is now.