When we watch movies, TV, or even read a good book, there is one thing we love to do: hate the villain. It is ingrained in us, even from a very early age. We want the hero to succeed and we want the villain to fail. This disdain grows worse as time passes. No longer do we not just want the hero to win, we want the villain destroyed. We cheer and hope for their great demise.
The movie Taken serves as a good example of this. The film helped expose the issue and evil of sex trafficking to a large audience, hitting us in the face with the reality that such evil happens in the world we live in today.
So what do we do throughout the entire movie? We cheer and hope beyond all hope that not only will the protagonist, Liam Neeson, save his child, but also that he will end the people involved with the disgusting, horrible, dehumanizing industry of sex trafficking.
While a desire for justice is a good thing, what does our desire to see people destroyed really show about us?
Simply put, it brings to light how much more like Christ we really need to be. God loves the oppressor just as much as He loves the oppressed, no matter how terrible that oppression is.
While God hates the injustice of human trafficking, He loves the person who is forcing men, women, and children into sex trafficking. And that should give us hope.
To say all sin is the same can warp our understanding of morality. However, all sin, no matter what it is, can hurt, strain, or even break our relationship with God. We all, no matter what we have done, deserve the punishment our sins require. But no matter how far, how bad, how destructive within the creation of God we have been, we can never do anything so bad as to lose or even lessen God’s love for us (Romans 8:38-39).
How we think, how we speak, and how we act must reflect that. God has called us to love the person who is perpetrating oppression just as much as we love and fight for those who are being oppressed. This is no easy task. We are trained to loathe them, even to hate them for what they do. But when we hate them, we hate someone who is loved by Christ.
As Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 (from The Message version):
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, grow up. You’re Kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
With that in mind, here are a few ways we can start to change how we think about the oppressor:
Stop thinking the oppressors are beyond hope
Stop categorizing people as good and evil, as those who need saving and those who need to be punished. When we stop thinking of people as if they are the pure embodiment of evil, we might begin to open our hearts toward those who God is desperate to bring unto Him.
Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2 that “[God] wants not only us but everyone saved, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered Himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. “
Pray to see the oppressors as God sees them
Even though “they” deserve retribution, “they” deserve to be thrown in jail with the key thrown into the deepest, darkest abyss; we have to stop desiring that for anyone. We should desire what God desires; that they would come to a saving relationship with God. They are people who need God to change their minds and hearts.
Does that mean they should be allowed to do whatever they want? Of course not. Isaiah 61:8 tells us, “For I, the LORD, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing.”
There is a tension between grace and justice that walks a thin line. Grace teaches us to forgive, yet justice is needed. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Let us do our best to stop the evil in this world. After all, as Edmund Burke so often reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
But let us also fight for everyone who needs God. After all, we all deserve the same punishment for our sins, from the worst of us to the best. Again, Paul reveals to us in Romans 3 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Pray for the grace to forgive
As Christians and as people who strive to be like Christ, let us actually be like Christ and work for the reconciliation of ALL people to God.
When we read stories about those who forgive and befriend the person who killed a loved one, we see people who are truly living like Christ. Those stories wreck us because they are so outside of what we understand yet resonate within our deepest beings. We often think in those times “I could never do that,” and I pray no one ever has to, but shouldn’t we strive to be just like this? Let’s ask God to give us the grace to forgive, regardless of what someone has done, to us, or to those who cannot help themselves.
It is time that we, as Christians, love the oppressor just as much as we love the oppressed.
We must still fight for justice, but it is time that we strive to help the oppressor find Christ and to be reconciled unto Him. Pray that we can all learn to love just like Christ does. Let us work together to bring both justice and grace to all who are in need of Christ (and that is all of us).
This post was originally written for and appears on relevantmagazine.com. You can find the original post written by the author here.
Image was used by permission from Austin Allen, and undergraduate Senior at Southeastern University. The image was taken by Austin during his recent trip to India working with impoverished children and women rescued from sex trafficking.