I was simply shocked, surprised in the way of hearing something but thinking ‘No, that can’t be right’! I heard that the trade in illegal wildlife, smuggling native flora and fauna was a most lucrative business (estimated at $US20 billion per year) but fourth – that’s right, fourth – on the illegal trade ladder. Top of the ladder is illegal drugs, then comes illegal arms, and then human trafficking and slavery, and then the illegal natural world. I tried to check the sources of the claim and found various estimates (the very nature of the activity doesn’t lend itself to close monitoring!) all of which were saying ‘big big money’ and that this was a major problem for the planet in terms of species protection, biodiversity, and the economy and livelihoods of many people.
Major problems also exist in relation to illegal drugs, illegal weapons, and treating people as property!
Perhaps it was imagining flora and fauna in some collector’s garden or just the profits themselves and the power that wealth brings or the tragedy of slavery – hidden in plain sight today it is often said – but in a moment I saw humanity – me too in my own world – all seeking and grabbing for what we can – from basic needs for survival to the esoteric – so that we firstly might live and then secondly, live as well as possible. No matter the ethic, legislation, philosophy, structural reform, progress that happens we have the ability to wreck things in the pursuit of our lives. Drugs and violence – or the need for them – are not the products of good living! Slavery – actually treating another human being as property – is misery for the enslaved and a mockery of what good living is all about for the enslavers. A study of history, I think, will reveal that life has ever been thus – eat or be eaten – with everyone living in fear. Religion isn’t guiltless here either for it can create systems of power and oppression – and when religion is supposed to alleviate fear, it often does the opposite.
And onto Planet Earth walks Jesus. Baptised as a sinner appearing to repent of his sins, he takes our lot onto himself and he’ll take it all to the cross. People want to be gods and have power over others and creation itself and we’ll drug ourselves through the tough parts. God becomes human so that we can live with him. We want easy street (that’s the street gods are supposed to live on) but this Jesus walks wet from the river Jordan to cross. Those who follow him have his words of comfort, ‘I do not condemn you’ and his challenge (‘go, and from now on sin no more’) – John 8:11. That’s not easy street either.
The best living, I think, is knowing that we are puny gods and delusional deities wanting control; that we’re not gods but we are loved and rescued by God so that we can live without terror. We are responsible for our behaviours – yes, we work on those – but we do so in a relationship with Jesus who understands us and who is with us in the struggle. His baptism revealed his solidarity, his commitment, to us. Christian baptism personally does the same thing – Jesus unites himself to us, commits himself to us – and because he is God, the pressure is off us to be one. Instead we learn what it means to live … a life in all its fullness in this world here and now … with him. Following the God who serves, where will that lead us in this world? GS