Modern-day Slavery and Our True Liberator
Modern-day Slavery and Our True Liberator
The story behind the sermon (By R. York Moore)
Why preach on Human Trafficking
I believe the Church has a moral obligation to press into the growing tragedy of slavery of all sorts and particularly the horrors of sex trafficking. Sex slaves are made in the image of God; Christ died for them and loves them. God longs to set the captive free and restore broken lives. Unfortunately, in our day this has been allegorized and made to apply only to our universal captivity to sin. I believe that God wants to set free those who are literally in captivity as well and to restore people and communities from the displacement, disease, and disaster brought about by injustices like slavery.
You could also consider it this way: Sex slaves represent not only an unreached people group but one of the rare "unreachable" people groups because of their circumstances. Even by conservative estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of people who suffer in this category, the vast majority are women and a sizable percentage are children. The vulnerable and marginalized have always been at the center of God's missional activity in Scripture. As followers of Christ, we should long to seek their freedom so that they can hear the good news of Jesus—something that is impossible in their captivity and servitude. Either way we look at it, the Bible calls us to care for the outcast, widows, orphans, and the poor. This certainly encapsulates those who live as slaves today—in fact, many slaves fit most if not all of these contours.
The Big Idea of this message
This particular message was written for evangelical organizational leaders and justice-oriented practitioners at a missions conference in Chicago. While I believe most evangelicals have finally begun to make peace with the compatibility of justice and Jesus, there is still something wrong with how we practice holistic Kingdom ministry. Often our practice of compassion ministry, justice, and restoration runs parallel or sequentially to our practice of evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship. We may have made peace between these two polarities but we don't know how to integrate them. This often leads to a dichotomized vision and purpose. In this sermon I help the listener see the historic and future actions of God as an integrative, holistic expression of God's desire for total restoration, something I more fully develop in my newest book, Making All Things New: God's Dream for Global Justice.
Advice for preaching on human trafficking
First, avoid the temptation of being the expert on the issue; instead, take the posture of a learner as well. Admit your loss in understanding the depths of the darkness you are learning about. Be vulnerable and express your desire to grow. This will connect deeply with the majority of people who are in the same boat.
Second, avoid sounding hopeless. Take the posture of a follower of the victorious Christ who will ultimately bring an end to suffering and injustices. Help your hearers see the power of the gospel as it applies not just to human hearts but also to the circumstances of injustice. Remember how the missional quest of Christ ends in Revelation 11:15, "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever'" (NRSV). In the end, the realms of this world will fall under the reign of Jesus Christ.
Third, allow your heart to be broken for the things that break God's heart. Preaching against slavery cannot be academic, trendy and cute, or programmatic. Allow the sorrow of God to invade your soul, to get down deep and produce a laboring pain that can bring forth a powerful response from your Spirit-filled preaching. Read case work stories from the International Justice Mission's web site or from Hagar International and ask yourself, "Does my preaching rise to level of concern that is represented in the suffering of these women, men, boys, and girls?" We cannot preach holistically with integrity unless we allow the faces, names, and stories of those we are representing in our storytelling to impact us deeply.
How to help people apply the message
In the U.S., there are an estimated 300,000+ modern-day slaves. Preachers can be some of the strongest voices in the local community, not just the church, to help educate and advocate on behalf of modern-day slaves. Building alliances, partnerships, dialogues, and working projects with political leaders, non-profits, and other non-religious organizations around justice is a key work the local church and pastoral staff can do to love our neighbors who are enslaved.
For every walk of life there is some way people can respond. At the least, people can educate themselves and others around them in their spheres of influence. Most people can provide financial resources to front-line organizations who are working to protect the vulnerable and restore broken lives. Nearly all Christians can be a witness to others as they integrate their concern for the downtrodden and oppressed with their everyday lives and careers. We can do this by praying for those who suffer, introducing programs and resources in our workplaces, and being way-makers for front-line specialists working for the freedom and restoration of slaves.
For instance, a part time nurse at a hospital may want to gather a group of his co-workers to discuss a book like Gary Haugen's Terrify No More. A police officer may want to introduce her department to the training and resources developed by The Not for Sale Campaign to aid in helping recognize the signs of trafficking at a local level. A case worker for the department of health and human resources working in foster care and adoption may want to explore how to contextualize the after-care programming designed by Hagar International in children being placed from sexually abusive circumstances. There are all kinds of ways people can make the pursuit of justice practical and I've witnessed time and time again how the sermon can be the vehicle through which God awakens this area of the discipleship journey to the hearer.
When I was nine-years-old my father became my liberator—or so I thought. At that point in my life, my family was living in my dad's late '70s upholstered conversion van. That van had served my dad's prolific womanizing and drug and alcohol use as a free-spirited artist. And now it had also become our "home" during our initial days of homelessness on the streets of Detroit.
An October frost had etched the windshield with beauty, and in that cold calm, just for a moment—a glimpse at shalom—all seemed right, peaceful, and safe. But this mobile sanctuary was not a place of flourishing for three homeless children on the streets of Detroit.
My nine-year-old limbs ached from another night in the cold, and eating cereal again from a box had lost its campy charm—we were desperate and the frantic way my dad smoked his cigarette for breakfast showed it. With a squinty eye and disheveled hair he threw himself into the driver's seat and revved the engine. We barreled down the streets that orange morning in that van, barely able to see through the frosty window as my mother and brothers bounced around in the belly of the van. I had no idea what was going to happen but I was happy that my dad seemed to take charge and was determined to do something new—anything after losing our house and living in the van for those October days in Detroit.
We pulled up to a small duplex, a dilapidated structure which looked as disheveled as my frantic father. I remember feeling that morning that my dad was like my superman as he donned his orange leather coat like a cape and took me, his oldest son, in his arms from the passenger seat. Ignoring the wooden barricaded and the sticker that read "unfit for human occupation," my dad in his orange cape kicked his way through the front door and into our new home announcing, "We are here!"
Over the course of the next several months, stealing electricity from the neighbors and borrowing water to flush the toilets, we embarked on a journey of suffering and poverty that is, unfortunately, not all that rare in our nation's urban centers. That morning, I really thought that my dad was superman, my deliverer, my liberator in orange light and cape who kicked down the door of uncertainty and fear.
Our limited micro-narratives
You see, I was merely living inside my own limited micro-narrative, and I couldn't see reality for what it is. It happens to so many of us. We are all captive to the limitations of the micro-narrative of our time. In the grind of waiting in the cold, of eating out of the box of despair, we all long for things to be made new. We long to change the world, to make things new, but with the limitations of our story the change we bring is often just another form of brokenness. The bondage of micro-narrative is crippling for the oppressed: those who are our captors can be seen as our liberators, those who are the source of suffering and misery can be seen as heroes and the journey toward flourishing is often misinterpreted as the destination.
The bondage of micro-narrative is also blinding for the would-be liberator: as those who long to be justice advocates, activists, abolitionists, there are consequences of failing to see our limited micro-narrative perspective. As Stanley Hauerwas says of the church, we are an echo from the future. In our quest to make things new, to change our world, the fire-holders of justice are often tempted to don a powerless cape, to kick in the door from one world of suffering only to carry those we seek to save into another realm, perhaps an altogether worse realm of suffering and despair.
Probably the greatest consequence of failing to recognize the limitations of our perspective is the temptation to announce, "We are here," when, in fact, we are far from where we need to be. Such was the case for Moses in leading arguably the greatest liberation movement and migration of peoples in history. The world's most intricate and societally entrenched slave population had just been liberated. In Exodus 14:8, the Israelites were going out boldly, and why not? They had just witnessed 10 crippling plagues, they were being led by a pillar of fire by night, shielded from the sun with the cloud of the Lord by day, they had plundered their captors and were literally walking into the promise land with the wealth of their enemies dripping from their necks. For a moment they felt as if they had arrived. Though they were still on their journey, in their hearts they said, "We are here!"
Their hearts melt as they realize that Pharaoh and his army are in pursuit with horses, chariots, chariot drivers, and a vast army. In Exodus 14:11 they exclaim to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?" They say, "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." In the grip of their story, their micro-narrative, they lament and long for the security of their bondage, the predictability of their oppression, and the comfort of their upholstered captivity.
This is why the work of the church in the area of justice and mercy is so important. For those who are in the grip of suffering, there is an inability to transcend the micro-narrative and have hope. Understanding our story in light of God's story—his historical actions of the past—can give hope and perspective for the present. Our Christian story gives perspective and hope, because within it we see that God has always been in the business of making all things new, of bringing the transformative power of fire and cloud to a world of suffering and need. Looking back to the suffering of others can free us from the limiting factors of our own story. To know that our suffering and the suffering of our time does not exist in a vacuum is powerful—it connects us not only with those who have walked before but also with the powerful deliverance of God's saving work of the past.
The need for a True Liberator
When it comes to the crisis of modern-day slavery, we need the hope and perspective that comes from seeing our great orange-clad liberator's actions in the past. My calling to work as an abolitionist against human trafficking came in the midst InterVarsity's global missions conference, Urbana 2000, after hearing Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission speak. Weeping in the rafters of Urbana listening to Gary Haugen that night, I experienced the heart of God for those who suffer the hell of this world. For the first time, I faced the crisis of faith that comes with realizing that my conception of the gospel and my vision of Jesus Christ were too small. Listening to Gary's stories and statistics of suffering, I asked myself through tears, "How can my Jesus not only save sinners from the hell to come, but also the hell that is now?" If it was true, that there were millions of people living as commodities, that there were children being locked in dark rooms by the thousands to be raped for pay, how can my Jesus do anything about their plight? As an InterVarsity evangelist I had led thousands of students to repentance and faith. I was sure that Jesus saved sinners, but I was unsure if he was capable of transforming society and freeing young girls and boys from the hellish nightmare of slavery. I left the auditorium that night believing that God intends to transform both soul as well as society.
God will not stop until, clad in the orange glow of fire and cloud, the kingdoms of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. Not until the true Moses descends and puts an end to slavery, ushering in global justice, and making all things new. The typology of God's deliverance as recorded in the song of Moses becomes the melody of our pursuit of justice; it is the hymn of the abolitionist. And for us who would be fire-holders for the oppressed, it is the melody that gives us hope. The typology of an historico-narrative gives shape and hope to the micro-narrative of our past.
For the past 12 years I've worked to identify resources to fight human trafficking, particularly the child-sex, pay-for-rape industry. My journey has led me to remote places of profound suffering and injustice. I have looked into the eyes of pre-pubescent girls who know a world of terror and despair that I do not. I've sat down with girls like Maria, a 10-year-old who worked as a forced prostitute in Phnom Penh. Before the coalition of World Vision, IJM, and Hagar International intersected her life, she was a sex slave in desperate need of both the fire of justice and the cloud of restoration.
God's deliverance of Israel is our typology as workers of fire and cloud. We interpret our story through the story of God's work to make all things new. We know how his story ends, the freshly freed slaves pressed in by their oppressor's army, the pillar of fire and cloud accompanying them as they walk through the sea on dry ground, and the swell of relief and finality as the raging sea swallows up their foes in their wake.
Exodus 14:24 says,
At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic … So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea.
The text tells us that not one of them survived and that the LORD saved Israel that day. That morning, pillar and fire converge in a moment of divine deliverance. In a pillar of fire, cloaked in the glory of a cloud, the great Liberator liberates his people from an unimaginable oppressor. I imagine the sky orange that dawn as fire and cloud coalesce and refract upon the sea—God in cape of orange delivers his people.
Maria, a modern slave, may not know the chapter and verse of God's story, but fire and cloud came to her too in Phnom Penh. Maria saw this coalescence of fire and cloud upon the sea the day she was rescued and experiences it each day in her restoration through the work of Hagar International. You see, our historico-narrative is the typology for those of us who are fire and cloud to the Mariah's of our day.
What follows this story is the well-known "Song of Moses," and it is the melody of this historico-narrative where we find perspective and hope to face the crisis of modern-day slavery. In the orange ray of hope and deliverance, the people feared God and gave him glory through one of the greatest recorded moments of human-divine history, a moment recorded in the Song of Moses. In this song recorded in chapter 15, the Israelites recount in metaphorical form their miraculous salvation, the destruction of their captors. This is the freed army of the Lord, a former slave nation liberated through the mighty acts of a God clothed in cloud and fire!
"I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my might and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." The Israelites connect their micro-narrative in this song with the historico-narrative of the trans-generational acts of God in their lineage.
The call to free modern-day slaves
Typology begets not only hope but passion for action. Engaging the systemic evils and suffering of modern-day slavery requires the hope that can only come from the meta-narrative of the Eschaton. As we move from micro-narrative of our time to historico-narrative of the past, we encounter yet another set of limiting realities. If all we are left with is our present reality and the interpretive lens of the past, we cannot be sure that our futures will play out in the same way. Just because God freed the slaves of Egypt and the slaves of the United States of America does not mean that the slaves of Phnom Penh or Mexico City or Chicago will see their liberation, does it?
In dealing with the unthinkable emerging realities of modern-day slavery, we need our orange-clad liberator, the one who is literally clothed in fire and cloud, to give us hope for tomorrow. A Jesus that merely identifies with our pain and suffering is insufficient. A Jesus that weeps at the grave of death and does nothing to end it is biblically insufficient. Jesus not only dies for sin; he also sets the captives free. He is the True Liberator who has real solutions for the injustices of our time.
This unique evil of slavery has a face; the pay-for-rape industry is not a mere symbol of evil, it is wickedness personified and requires a unique act of divine justice, an expression of wrath that is unparalleled, and only in the Eschaton we find such hope. In the work of Jesus Christ we see the logic of God's grand story, the great genius of his metanarrative.
Christ's work at the cross
Follow me now as we connect the Song of Moses of past and future with the work of Jesus in divine judgment. Now, before Jesus went to the cross to take the wrath of God onto himself, he institutes the celebration of communion in Matthew 26. In Matthew 26:27 we read, "Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"
For us, the cup is the symbol of liberation, forgiveness, and the assuaging of the wrath of God. The cup for Jesus symbolizes the wrath that he drinks on our behalf on the cross. On the cross, Christ literally drinks our wrath for sin. The night before Jesus goes to the cross, he stops to pray in the garden. We read these words from Matthew 26:39, "And he went a little beyond them, and fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.'"
The cup for Christ is a cup of the unrestrained wrath of God poured out on him on the cross for both the sins of the world as well as the systemic evils of all time and space. He becomes the repository for the wrath for evil and sin until the end when he will pour wrath back out upon the earth. It is this element of the Gospel that is in danger in our time. In our quest to engage the post-Church, post-Judeo-Christian, and post-Modern globalized world, we have difficulty understanding where a God at war factors into our missional expression.
A cross-less gospel has no power to bring the healing balm needed to repair the broken spirits and places of our world. A gospel where there is no mention of the wrath and punishment taken upon Christ is an impotent gospel which has no compelling power to propel the church into the complexities of our time. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation; the only problem with this creed is our misunderstanding of the incomparable particularity of the gospel, the boundlessness of God's power, and the total inclusivity of the object of God's salvation. In the end, he will have it all. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. This is the ministry of cloud and fire.
In understanding this first work of Christ in cross and grave, we must understand it in light of the wrath of God, the full and unrestrained fury of God's anger at sin. As Christ goes to the cross, he understands that he will be taking on that wrath intended for the entire corpus of sins throughout time and space. Trembling as he goes, sweating full drops of blood from his brow, he goes willingly to that place of grotesquery where he is mutilated and humiliated and emaciated. At the pinnacle of this first Christ-event we read these words from John 19:28:
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus drinks from this jar of wine vinegar symbolically representing the wrath of God. The Christ-event on the cross has its apex as he receives the drink and Christ says, "It is finished." The Greek word is teleo which means "to seal up" or "complete." Jesus seals up the wrath and judgment of God and announces it is done.
Christ's work in judgment and wrath
The next time this phrase is uttered is in Revelation 16:17, when after the scroll is unfurled through the breaking of the seven seals, after the coming wrath of God is pronounced through the seven blasts of the trumpets, and after each of the seven bowls or cups of God's wrath are poured out, only then does God announce "It is done." Here, Jesus pours back out upon the earth the full cup of God's wrath. We read,
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.
The Greek word for "done" or "finished" here is ginomai, which means to be released or birthed into history.
Between the cross and the eschatological judgment of Jesus at the end of the age, Jesus is our repository for the wrath of God. Our ministry of fire and cloud exists between two pronouncements from God. The first from the cross, as Jesus announces the "It is done" of grace, and the other from the throne of heaven, as Jesus announces the "It is done" of judgment. I believe this moment is what all mission has as its orientation—this moment where the authority of Jesus Christ finally is unrestrained and justice descends from the throne room of God. Mission is an eschatological act done by an eschatological church establishing in time and space the eschatological reality of the reign of Jesus Christ. It is this moment and what it releases or births into history that provides the meta-narrative which enables us to press into the human-trafficking crisis of our time. This is where our ministry of cloud and fire finds its purpose and power—this is where we see him coming in the clouds, with fire and great glory, clad in orange and taking up his power.
Our ministry of fire and cloud is practiced between two songs of divine judgment. In Exodus 15, the freed slave nation sings the Song of Moses as an act of worship for God's deliverance, his destructive judgment against Egypt. In Revelation 15, the soon to be vindicated people of God again sing the Song of Moses in anticipation of God's final deliverance, his destructive judgment of end-time Babylon.
Just prior to pouring out the 7 bowls or cups of God's wrath, we see the connection to the Song of Moses of the past, God's historico-narrative, and the final deliverance of God's people in the Eschaton. John, in Revelation 15:1 says, "Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended." Here, "ended" is teleo, made complete, terminated. The Greek word here for "portent" refers to a miraculous wonder that serves as a sign of a unique and symbolic moment in time. It is not just an unusual occurrence but a turning point in history because with these seven angels, it says, "the wrath of God is ended." Following this turning point in history, the cup of God's wrath, drunk by Christ, is poured out in the form of seven cups—sores and blood, fire and scorching sun, darkness and drought, and the decimation of the earth.
Just prior to this certain deliverance we read this in verses 2-4,
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, king of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed."
How beautiful is the Word of God! How perfect is the great story of God! From Exodus 15 to Revelation 15, between two great melodies of justice and freedom we find the mission of God. Between these two great melodies we find the fortifying hope and power to engage in our current crisis of the commoditization of peoples. In these verses the people of God sing the song of Moses; they fear God and give him glory in anticipation of God's judgment. The scroll has been unsealed, the final trumpet has sounded, and now Jesus Christ in his glory descends.
John says he saw a sea mixed with fire—a clear allusion to the sea and fire of the Exodus. In Exodus, the judgment occurs and then the song, but in Revelation, the song occurs and then the judgment. This section of Revelation is a near mirror image of the story of God's liberation of Israel from Egypt.
In chapter 16, as cup upon cup is poured out in judgment upon the earth in the Eschaton, we've already read of the unique emphasis put on God's remembrance of Babylon. Revelation 16:9 says, "God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath." What Egypt was to the Israelites, Babylon will be to all the earth in the end of time: a slave making, oppressive embodiment of wickedness. Why in the moment of judging all the earth does God stop to give special attention to Babylon? While we do not have time to go into all that is Babylon and how Babylon is both typology and the specific embodiment of end-time wickedness, I do want you to see the connection to the recurrent theme of the commoditization of peoples.
Revelation 18:3-9 says,
For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury … And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
The intertwining of power, wealth, and sexual sin coalesce to give us a picture of indulgence at the expense of the human soul, a picture we see in the growing commoditization of our current slave crisis.
I believe Eugene Peterson's expression of verse 9 in The Message is accurate and takes into full account the holistic picture we get from eschatological Babylon: "The kings of the earth will see the smoke of her burning, and they'll cry and carry on, the kings who went night after night to her brothel." This judgment specifies the sin of slavery commonplace in end-time Babylon.
Finally, we see these kings weep for the commodities lost in verses 11-13:
The traders will cry and carry on because the bottom dropped out of business, no more market for their goods: gold, silver, precious gems, pearls; fabrics of fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet; perfumed wood and vessels of ivory, precious woods, bronze, iron, and marble; cinnamon and spice, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine and oil, flour and wheat; cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots. And slaves—their terrible traffic in human lives.
The judgment of Egypt was a judgment against slavery as will be the judgment of Babylon. The Song of Moses is sung just prior to the final judgment of Babylon because this judgment is a judgment against the sin of power and wealth, of sexual and behavioral exploitation in the commoditization of the human soul. God hates slavery in every time and place. In some way the story of humanity is the story of slavery—of commoditizing the powerless for pleasure or profit. In the work of cross and cup, in the first and second Christ-events, Jesus Christ takes in and pours out the full and unrestrained wrath of God to free those captive from their chains.
What I did not know that as a child suffering in Detroit I was enslaved to both this world as well as the world within my heart. In the end, all is Babylon, and our modern-day crisis of slavery is the current manifestation of thousands of years of boys and girls hoping for their Messiah. And John says,
Look! He is coming with the clouds … and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems … On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
Pillar of fire and glory-strewn cloud coalesce to reveal our orange-clad liberator, the conquering King who will once and for all lead us in victory. He calls us to a ministry of fire and cloud, to establish an echo from the Eschaton, his reign in time and space. Ours is an eschatological mission of establishing in real time the future certain liberation of Jesus Christ. This and nothing less is the true work of the modern-day abolitionist. Beyond activism and human initiative is the true saving eschatological work of the church, a work rooted in the past, empowered by Christ's death on the cross, and called forth from the future.
Frantically sucking down his cigarette and donning his leather cape that orange morning, I now know my dad was powerless to make things new; suffering begat suffering until I made my way to college. I started college in 1987. I went to the University of Michigan and fell in love with philosophy and became an atheistic existentialist. I persecuted Christians, wrote papers against them, lectured against them until I had a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve of 1989 during an attempted suicide.
Between then and my career with InterVarsity, I've been on the college campus now for over 25 years. When I started, I did my papers on a typewriter, my computer work on a mainframe the size of a literal building; no one had cell phones. The internet had not been mainstreamed, and social media did not exist. When we think about the unimaginable deluge of disruptive technology that has come to change not only culture but the contours of the world, we realize that a lot can change in a very short period of time. The information, technology, communication revolution that has and is occurring has touched every aspect of culture and has literally redefined human self-perception and the way we practice community. If we were to go back in time to 1987—let alone before the creation of television or telephone—and try to describe to people the radical, world-changing innovation that would come to define our modern-day the response would almost certainly be disbelief.
The Eschaton is more unbelievable than the recent technological plate tectonic shift, more boundless than the impact of a unifying globalized world, and more incomprehensible and scandalous than the commoditization of pre-pubescent sex slaves—yet it is more true than all of these realities combined. It's hard to think about a world of beasts and plagues, of anti-Christ and astronomical anomalies. It isn't what we focus on, but the reality is the Song of Moses will be sung, Babylon will rise and fall, and Jesus Christ will come in fire and cloud. Perhaps the glow of orange will set the backdrop that day as the nations gather from every freed tribe, tongue, and language for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
In living between the two Christ-events of cross and cup, we've been given the power that can change the world, a ministry of fire and cloud. This is not a time for well managed passions, of tempered emotions and curbed concern. Jesus is coming to make all things new and as we wait we are seeking to set the slaves free. As Revelation 21 promises,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."
R. York Moore is the National Evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, the author of Making All Things New, and the founder of the Price of Life campaign, a movement which combines evangelism and the fight against modern-day slavery.