A few weeks ago, my newsfeed was aflame with a story about a horrible accident in China. In the warehouse surveillance camera video, a 2-year-old girl walks into the frame and is promptly hit by a van. The driver stops for a moment while the toddler is between the tires of his vehicle, but he ultimately drives on, running her over again with the back tires. In the seven minutes that follow, eighteen people pass the bleeding child without stopping to help. Finally, an old woman scavenging for garbage drags the little girl out of the way of traffic, but even she continues along her way, leaving the girl on the side of the road. When the toddler’s mother rushes into the screen to pick up her child, the body she lifts into her arms is limp and broken. The little girl survived only a few days on life support.
The world was outraged, and rightfully so. There is simply no excuse for ignoring a child dying in the road—but should the rest of us really be throwing stones?
In Luke 10, Jesus tells a story that is eerily similar to the one above about a man walking along a road who is beaten and left for dead by robbers. A priest and a Levite both cross to the other side of the road, ignoring the man in desperate need of help. Finally, a Samaritan approaches and offers assistance, bandaging the man’s wounds and paying for him to stay at an inn. Even secular culture understands a reference to a “good Samaritan”: a person who places value on the needs of a stranger. Unfortunately, just like in the story, some of the “holiest” people are walking by without a second glance.
If you’re reading this website, chances are you’ve stumbled across an article or two about modern-day slavery. Although we are not the first Christians to ever care about it, "justice" has become a buzz word that defines our generation. We watch documentaries about the sex industry and attend conferences about human trafficking; many of us can rattle off statistics about child soldiers or forced labor in the cocoa fields.
However, the fact that we’re learning about it doesn’t mean we are called to move to the red light district in Pattaya. Just as a community requires people who are passionate about medicine, education, law enforcement and business, the members of the body of Christ are called to serve in different capacities. Every Christian in the world can’t move to Nairobi, Kenya, to share the Gospel; similarly, we can’t all have a passion for ending child labor or there won’t be anyone left to feed the homeless. Our callings and passions are intricately woven by a masterful God who cares about every person in every nation and longs to end their suffering.
That said, not having a particular passion about a certain injustice does not exempt us from caring about it at all. I’ve never felt called to protest in Washington against abortion, but that doesn’t mean I’m free to donate my entire savings account to Planned Parenthood. Valuing human life is not a calling; it’s a requirement of those who believe that every individual was created in the image of God. By purchasing products that we know have been manufactured by people who are not provided a fair wage, we are allowing companies to continue to exploit their workers, sometimes relying on forced labor or child slaves to produce the items we buy.
Two years ago, the leading chocolate seller in Europe, Cadbury, responded to the cries of human rights activists and committed to ensuring that all the cocoa used in its top-selling candy bar was fair trade certified. Today, many U.S.-based nonprofits are rallying that America’s favorite chocolate, Hershey’s, follow suit. A campaign called Raise the Bar is leading the way in encouraging Hershey’s to appropriately monitor their supply chains and support fair trade cocoa production. Like in Europe, our voices together can make a difference, and the voice of the Church needs to be the loudest of them all.
In 1783, William Wilberforce presented his first petition to the British Parliament that eventually led to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Wilberforce is upheld as a model of putting Christian faith into action; yet here we stand at a unique time in history and the Church is reluctant to step in. There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history, and many Christians are just as guilty of apathy as the non-believing world around us. If we are truly loving our neighbors, we should never have to ask if God would desire us to stand up and become a voice for the voiceless.
Both CNN and MTV have recently begun campaigns against human trafficking, and Ashton Kutcher’s “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” project has turned quite a few heads. In commercials, videos and advertisements that feature celebrities such as Ludacris, Ben Stiller, Justin Timberlake and Eva Longoria, “Real Men” is challenging our culture’s acceptance of purchasing sex, particularly sex with underage girls. While it is phenomenal that celebrities are using their influence to scream out against this injustice, it is a terrible shame that the world is better representing the message of Christ than the Church.
God hasn’t specifically convicted me about searching the city for little girls who have been hit by cars. It’s not my calling, and it’s not my passion. But if I walk down the street and see a child bleeding in the road, I cannot call myself a follower of Christ if I refuse to stop. Likewise, if I know the candy I’m purchasing is tainted with slave labor, I cannot hide behind the fact that God has not called me into fighting against slavery. The greatest sorrow in the world is not caused by the exploitation of the vulnerable; it is caused by a Church that is too comfortable to care.