The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Last week I smiled and then stopped. This week it was a visceral shudder and feeling ill. You may not want to read on. The news item mentioned Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which caught my eye because my daughter had been visiting there recently for work. The news was about the arrest of individuals – including police and immigration officials – and the exposure of human trafficking and particularly organ harvesting where people have either illegally gone to another country or been tricked into debt servitude and forced then to give up a kidney. (Slavery is still rampant in the world but the chains are very much hidden.) There are multiple factors at play including lack of state intervention to enforce the law or international treaties because of apathy or corruption, poverty (particularly post C-19), social media lures, educational challenges with people simply not understanding ‘the real world’, and the huge amounts of money that is made. 

My sense of the commonalities of the victims some of whom were described as farm workers, teachers, executives, security guards was sheer desperation. What must life be like that makes this situation an option not just to consider but do – and often then to be ensnared? I recalled the similar sadness and despair at the deaths of the 39 Vietnamese in the container lorry in Essex four years ago – and before over the little Syrian boy drowned and found – and photographed – on a Turkish beach nearly ten years ago. 

The other side of the coin are the causes for people to flee and the business models and the corruption in so many organisations which can hide the truth that there other people behaving badly, violently, greedily, selfishly, callously, evilly – individuals who make choices wherever they are in ‘the system’ to do the ‘wrong thing’. I am sure that the process is incremental – a little wrong thing and then another little thing, and so on. I have heard from people who would say that it is also contextual – that they felt that they had no choice and this helped them to care for their families. Now I am not expecting the world to be some sort of Star Trek social utopia – our world will never be a ‘heaven on earth’. Nevertheless to choose to behave and ignore the consequences, to be a part of a chain that hurts and enslaves people, to think it’s ‘me first’ or ‘me and my tribe first’ is to regard other people as not the same as you – ultimately as not a human being but a ‘thing’ to be used like anything else.

When Christians came onto the scene one of their radical views was about people – humanity – each person – that they were children of God – and rescued by Jesus to a life that was reoriented away from the powerful and the powerless, the used and the abused, and because Jesus died for everyone then everyone was to be treated with dignity and respect because Jesus loves and rescues everyone. We forget how radical a perspective that was and the behaviour that came from it has shaped our ideas of personhood and rights today. But today we still have the horror stories mentioned above and we are increasingly fighting about whose rights should triumph. This human v that human? Collective rights v individual rights? Are rights declared or inalienable? Whatever happens in the social, legal, philosophical world, each of us still live in our time and place with people around us and for the Christian, whatever else is happening in the ‘big picture’, we are called by Jesus to use our brains and work out how best to serve in each situation we’re in and anything that is corrupt, hurtful, illegal, evil towards others is rejected. We read the Bible to meet Jesus and hear how he wants us to live – what not to do and what to do. And we trust Jesus to make us secure in him and to bring good from everything we do.