By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)
When I read this verse recently, it struck me in a new way. If you read the context, it defines “the least of these” as those who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. I’ve often imagined that “the least of these” would be easy to identify – like those who live on the streets that we see almost every time we take a walk of drive our cars through the city – but unfortunately this is not always the case, and we actually need to have our eyes and ears wide open to see those who are hurting all around us. Sadly, the traffickers in our communities have figured this out too and are experts at doing just that – their eyes and ears are wide open! These perpetrators, both men and women, seem to be able to spot the potential victims, the vulnerable, those who feel “unseen”, and deliberately move in on their prey to show them that they can be cared for, given a place to stay, even showered with gifts – which results in them being lured into trafficking situations where they are exploited, sold, treated as objects and often hurt or even killed – all whilst tricking these young women, men and children into believing that they are being taken care of, and no one will ever “see them” and “treat them” as well as their pimp or trafficker.
Jesus was the perfect example to each of us of how we can interact with others in society to ensure that they know they are seen, not only by us, but by our heavenly Father who looks past our circumstances, the people we associate with, and the decisions we have made, in order to love us and save us from a world of hurt. Jesus saw the criminal hanging beside him at Calvary and said the words “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well as He went against all cultural expectations and moved beyond hostility toward restoration, putting his own “religious cleanliness” into question as He shared a cup with, not only a woman but a woman, who was clearly an outsider in her own community (John 4:1-26). Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he saw those suffering from mental illness, disabilities, and sickness (Luke 5:18-26), the list goes on and on. He was willing to surrender his privilege to cross cultural boundaries and draw these people into relationships, and He still does this for each of us today. Just like Jesus, we need to have our eyes opened to see those in need so that we too, can cross boundaries and build relationships!
Traffickers work tirelessly to see the vulnerable in society, to be the first people to greet the young girls and boys leaving foster care, to reach out to those who have run away from toxic home situations and need a place to stay, and to spend time with kids when they leave school for the day and have nowhere else to go. It is our responsibility to let those same kids know that we see them and more importantly, that God sees them too!
Prayer: Lord, please give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us who need you – help us be brave as we look into the darkness to share your light. Show us how to help and give us courage to speak up. Protect these men, women, girls and boys from predators who offer promises of a better life but are actively planning their destruction. Use us to seek out and fight for the least of these.
Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, To Be Seen By God, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.