“This just in, we have reports of a Police Officer killed while on duty. The Police Department has not yet released a name. We will keep you updated with information as we receive it…” the Radio Announcer droned on, moving to happier topics, but I was paralyzed by that one statement. A feeling of dread settled over me as I thought of my several friends on the force. All I could do was pray for their safety and wait for news updates.
Eight hours later, they released the name of my friend. One moment I was sitting on my couch watching the news and the next I was on my knees crying in the middle of the floor. My friend was gone. I felt sick to my stomach.
The next morning, somewhere in the cycle of reading my Bible, crying and praying for my friend’s now-motherless daughter, I felt the overwhelming conviction to pray for the 22-year-old girl that caused her death. It caught me by surprise. I was still processing the grief and now I am supposed to intercede for the one who caused it? Yes. Then the verses came flooding back: bless them who curse you, love your enemy, do good to those who hurt you. Alright Lord, my friend is gone, but that girl is still here. I will pray for her.
Then it hit me – what about the rest of them? Who is praying for the murderers, rapists and slave traders? I am completely dedicated to helping marginalized woman and children, but I’ve never once stopped to pray for their abusers. What about the drug lords and pedophiles? It is wonderful to see the church rising up for the cause of those trapped in sex slavery, but what are we doing to reach the traffickers who put them there?
Yes, we are to defend the cause of the weak (Ps. 82:3) . Yes, we are to look after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Yes, we are to care for the afflicted (Ps. 140:12). Yes, we are to see justice and correct oppression for the abused (Jer. 22:3). Yes, we are to defend the cause of the widow and fatherless (Is. 1:17).
We do this, not simply out of the goodness of our heart or the guilt at our own easy lives, but because we have ourselves been redeemed and are now compelled to deliver that redemption to everyone…. even those trapped in the sex trade, poverty and at the mercy of evildoers.
But is that it?
What about the murderers, rapists and slave traders?
I absolutely believe that the Gospel is the answer. I know eternal judgment is coming. I am continually striving to witness, go on mission trips and support missionaries so that the Gospel might be proclaimed to everyone…. except those who deserve to burn in hell.
What? Where did that thought come from?
In a silent moment of honesty, I realize that I have frequently appointed myself Judge of both the victim and the victimizer. I have this sick realization that far too often I have let my Christianized moral compass, rather than the Holy Spirit, choose who I pray for and witness to.
- Our moral compass says free the slaves; but the Holy Spirit says minister to the slaves and take Jesus to the slave owners.
- Our moral compass says stop human trafficking; but the Holy Spirit says defend the weak, stop trafficking and pray for the traffickers.
- Our moral compass says guard our children from molestation; but the Holy Spirit says to protect the children and do spiritual battle for the souls of molesters and pedophiles.
What about the murderers, rapists and slave traders? When was the last time you mourned for the souls of lost murderers, rapists, pedophiles, abusers, drug dealers, and traffickers?
Jesus died for them. For Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk. 19:10), and as Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Who am I to judge? For every person has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) As Jesus said to the crowd of self-righteous Jews who condemned the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7) After all, the first person to respond to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross was a thief sentenced to death (Lk. 23:39-43).
The question is not: can God save a trafficker or a murderer. Of course He can. And He does. We all know the story of the self-righteous Jewish zealot who was an accessory to murder, committed numerous hate crimes and tried to instigate the genocide of an entire religious group. Yet, in Acts 9, this evil man was saved by the power of Jesus Christ and his life radically transformed. His name was changed from Saul to Paul and he became the greatest missionary in Scripture. Of course God saves evildoers.
The question is will we be a part of God’s redemptive work in the lives of sinners? Will we do spiritual battle for the abuser, trafficker and drug dealer? We mourn, pray and advocate for the souls of the abused, exploited and dying – in this God is glorified. We are also to mourn, pray and fight for the souls of the murderer, trafficker and abuser – in this God is glorified.
I’ll be honest. This one gets to me. I’ve worked with women and girls who have been abused, sold into the sex trade, starved, given away as child brides, and abandoned in poverty.
My heart breaks for Roukea, the temporary wife divorced and condemned to the slums of Africa at 13. Xiaroa, the Chinese teen sold into the sex trade by her brothers. Sukie, the girl molested by her teacher in the US. I weep for them. I pray for them. I make their plight known to everyone I know. But how often do I pray for Roukea’s abusive husband? Kiaroa’s brothel owner? Sukie’s molester? My friend’s killer?
Honestly, my moral compass demands they pay for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law… and then some. My moral compass wants them to burn in hell. They deserve it.
But then, so do I.
Yet I was forgiven (Rom. 6:23). Only God is righteous to judge us (Rom. 12:19). Who am I to judge? Of course, those who committed such crimes will have to face consequences of their sin on this earth. But in His great mercy, we have been pardoned from the eternal judgment we deserve. Who are we to judge?
It is not my place to judge. We do this, not because they ‘deserve’ it or because we feel sorry for them, but because we have ourselves been forgiven and are now compelled to deliver that message of forgiveness to everyone…. Even the murderers, rapists and slave traders.
Because Christ’s mercy is that great (1 Pt. 1:3).
Because Christ’s blood is enough (Heb. 9:14).
After all, if the people of God do not pray for the evildoers, who will? (Rom. 12:21)