The Parable of the Slave

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This is my story.

This is the story of the Bride of Christ.

This is your story.

There once was a certain girl who grew up in the land.  She had been a slave for as long as she could remember. Everyone she knew was a slave.  And the life of a slave was all she knew.

There arose in the land a great king who was righteous.  His heart broke for the people who were enslaved in the land and His anger was kindled against their taskmasters. He took note of the slave girl and He loved her from the moment He saw her.  In fact, He loved her so much that He immediately went to her and rescued her from slavery.  He brought her into His castle and ordered His servants to exchange her dirty, tattered garments for the finest garments of the kingdom, put shoes on her feet, and rings on her fingers.  A party was thrown that very night in the castle in her honor.  There was more delicious food than the girl had ever seen in her entire life. She was overwhelmed by the generosity of the King toward her.  As the party rolled on into the night, and the she had eaten more food than she could hold and laughed and smiled more than her cheeks could bear, the King stood up and announced His plan to adopt her as His very own daughter.  And so He did.

And all was well for a time.  The girl loved her new life. And the King loved her with a father’s love.  He took great delight in seeing her thrive in the kingdom and feel secure and full of joy.   But eventually, the girl ran into one of the taskmasters who had formerly ruled over her. “Who do you think you are?” he scoffed at her.  “You were born a slave.  You’ll always be a slave.  Those fancy clothes don’t fool me.  I know who you really are.  You don’t belong in the King’s kingdom.”

And the girl remembered her former life and fell into despair, thinking, “He’s right.  Who am I to be favored by this king?  Surely I am not truly loved by him.  Who am I to walk around as if I am His true daughter when I am not even worthy to be His servant.  There has been a mistake.”  It was at this time that she withdrew from the presence of the King.  She took off the beautiful clothes He had given her and put back on her filthy rags.  She kept to herself and her shame drove her deeper into despair.

The King took note of her absence and sought her out.  When He found her alone, He asked, “Why have you withdrawn from me?  Where are your fine garments?  You are my beloved daughter.  It is my desire for you to grow up before my eyes because I delight in you.  I delight in beholding you.  I delight in knowing you.  I delight in blessing you.”

The girl wept at the King’s words, but could not bring herself to believe them.  “Your words cannot be true,” she retorted. “How could a king love a slave as His own daughter?  Those clothes don’t belong to me.  They don’t change who I am.  All they have done is cover up the filth from my years as a slave.  I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong to you.  I should go back to the slave pits.”

And the King wept to hear her heart.  “But all I have, I have given to you.  Anything and everything in my kingdom is yours.”  But the girl would not accept any of it.  She felt too unworthy.

About that time, the slavemaster came to the gates of the castle to demand her life be turned over to him.  And he brought with him a great host of oppressors.  “Return the slave girl to me, for she is mine!” He yelled up at the castle. “She was born a slave and she will die a slave.  She has no business in your kingdom, let alone your family.  I will fight for her tooth and nail!  Surrender her now!”

At this, the King’s passion was kindled.  He called to himself His only begotten Son, the heir of the kingdom, and the captain of His army.  “Son, the time has come to fight for the life of my daughter.  The slavemaster has demanded she be given up, but I will not stand for it.  She is my own and even if I must give up my whole kingdom for her, so be it.  Even if you, my only flesh and blood son, must die for her, so be it.  All the power and authority of my kingdom I give to you to leave this castle, descend to the slave pits, and defeat the slavemaster and his host.”

The Son of the King took no convincing for He had already fallen head over heels in love with the girl.  The passion in His heart toward her matched the passion in His father’s heart for her.  “Father, I am more than willing to fight for your daughter, my beloved.  I will conquer this foe even if it means my own death so that she might stay here in this kingdom and remain with us forever, knowing how much we love her.”

And so, the King’s Son led His army into war.  Two mighty hosts crashed into one another in the slave pits all on behalf of the life of one slave girl.  And for a time, it seemed as though the army of oppressors had the upper hand.  The Son of the King and the slavemaster went head to head in combat.  The Son of the King fought gallantly, but the slavemaster eventually dealt a mighty blow to the Son of the King, knocking Him off His horse into the dust.  He lay there on the ground for what seemed like three day.  But then, just when it seemed that the slavemaster had won, the Son of the King rose up off the ground, drew back His mighty sword and slew the slavemaster.

Now, the King had taken the girl up to the highest tower of the castle so that she could watch the battle that was being fought on her behalf.  “Do you see my Son down in the slave pit fighting for you?” He asked.  “He has fallen in love with you.  He is willing to lay down His life so that you might live.  This is the greatest love of all.”  And the slave girl wept to see this mighty prince in battle all because He loved her.  “Daughter,” the King said.  “I have always loved you.  You did not choose me.  I chose you to be mine.  Now it is my desire and privilege to see your joy be full.  Do you love my son who loves you and would give His life for you?”

At this, the girl looked fully into the King’s eyes and said with all sincerity, “Yes.  I love Him.  I love Him with all that is within me.”

The King beamed with joy to hear her choose His son.  “Then it is settled.  Upon my son’s return, I will give you in marriage to Him.  His name shall be your name.  His inheritance shall be your inheritance.  And you will KNOW that you are my true daughter, once and for all.  And none shall be able to deny it.”

And so it was that when the Son returned, He sat down at the right hand of His father.  The former slave girl exchanged her tattered garments once again, this time for a beautiful wedding gown, and the King’s Son received her as a bride unto himself.  And the Son loved her.  And the Father loved her.  And she loved the Son and she loved the Father.  And she came to know her place in the kingdom, her place in the family.  She walked in the authority of the King, not ruling over others, but serving and loving others as the Son had loved and served her.  She made a way for others to be exalted just as the Son had made a way for her.  She spent time before the eyes of her Father, the King, serving in His courts, sitting at the foot of His throne, listening to His wise words, and reclining her head in His lap.  And she knew once and for all, that she was His true daughter.  And the Father and the Son took great delight in her.

And it came to pass, that one day the King took her up to the top of the highest tower again.  “Look down into the slave pit, Daughter, and tell me what you see.”

“I see slaves at work, trying so hard to please their taskmasters so that they might find one small moment of relief, joy, anything.  Father, my heart is moved with compassion for them.  I used to be just like that.  But because of your love for me and the love of your son, I am free.  Father, your love is so great.  Would you not take them in and adopt them as you have done for me?”

The King beamed with fatherly pride to see that His daughter had developed a heart just like His own.  “That is exactly what I desire.  Long have they been oppressed and long have I waited for you to feel what I feel and think like I think.  You finally know your true identity, your place in this family.”

“It is only because of your unconditional love that you showed me, Father.  It’s only because you and your son were the only ones to love me with no agenda, no strings attached, while I was yet a slave, unworthy of such love.”

“Daughter, it is the thrill of my heart for you to know my love, but the people down in that pit, they don’t know it.  But I love them the same way that I love you.  I want to adopt them in to this family.”

“Don’t they know that your son has defeated the slavemaster?”

“No, Daughter, they don’t know.  And they won’t know unless they are told.”

“Then send me, Father.  Let me go to them and tell them.  Who better to go than the one who knows what it was like to be a slave and now is truly free because of your love?  Let me bear the love you have for them.”

This was exactly the will of the King.  So He sent her out as an ambassador for His Kingdom. She was to represent her family, her bridegroom, her father, her King.  She declared the King’s unconditional love everywhere she went and expressed it through her actions.  Many accepted this message of freedom through His love.

And thousands of slaves became true sons and daughters of the Most High King all because one slave girl dared to believe what the King said about her.

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Benjamin Nolot, A Forerunner for Purity in a Pornified World

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Benjamin Nolot

“Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual…creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, strong; they may desire autonomy and independence, or family and children; they long for commitment and fidelity; they are searching for deeper meaning and purpose; they long to have an impact in the world.  Simply put, women are not a sexual buffet for the gratuitous appetites of men; they are image bearers of God and the crown of His creation.” 

photoThese words were spoken by Benjamin Nolot (founder of Exodus Cry and award-winning director of Nefarious, a film exploring the nature and manifestation of human trafficking in the world today), at the One Thing conference in Kansas City, which wrapped up on the last day of 2013.  Blake and I drove the six hours to KC this past weekend mainly to hear him speak, but also enjoyed hanging with some friends, a teaching by Mike Bickle, worship with Matt Redman, Laura Hackett, and Jon Thurlow, lunch at Cosentino’s (a downtown market with a plethora of different fresh food), and an early birthday treat for Blake which started with our favorite KC BBQ at Jack Stack’s and wrapped up with some coffee, cookies, and chai at a local coffee house called Crossroads (Blake even wore his Crossroads hoody that day.  How did he know?).

Early Birthday Goodness

Early Birthday Goodness

The One Thing Conference is an annual gathering of around 30,000 people, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), which focuses on drawing people into a deep encounter with Jesus so that they might make Him and His call the One Thing in their life which takes all preeminence.  It takes place after Christmas each year and wraps up with an extended worship set to ring in the New Year.  Unfortunately, Blake and I couldn’t stay the whole time (we missed the beginning and the end and were only there for about a day and a half), but I was adamant that we hear Benjamin Nolot speak, as he is one of my living heroes.  

One Thing 2013

One Thing 2013

At this time, I feel I must explain what I mean by “living hero” because it is a term I use quite often and you will most likely read it again in future posts.  A living hero is NOT someone I idolize. They are simply someone I greatly respect and who inspires me. They are NOT someone I try to emulate, but rather, are someone I submit to learn from.  They are someone whose life I follow and am interested in observing.   I say all this because I feel it’s important that there be only one I exalt and emulate: Christ Jesus. But there are many people who are forerunners worthy of my notice and Benji Nolot is amongst those at the top of that list. 

His message at the conference was profound and was birthed out of the research and filming of the sequel to Nefarious.  While the first film revealed the problem of human trafficking, it did not explore many of the causes.  With over 30 million people enslaved today (more than ever in human history), the majority of whom are enslaved for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the enormity of the problem begs the question: why?  In other words, how has humanity reached such a deep level of global depravity that this many people are being commodified?  As Nolot puts it, “What type of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”  Nefarious-HTML1

The second film promises answer this central dramatic question by exposing the pornified nature of multiple aspects of our culture which work collectively to do two things: to groom women and girls to conform to the idealized hyper-sexualized image of femininity while simultaneously grooming men and boys to consume women’s sexuality.  This duality working in tandem is so inherently problematic for both sexes, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexuality, resulting in what Nolot refers to as a “toxic sexuality.” The end result of such toxic sexuality is the dehumanization of both women and men.  Women’s sexuality become their only value and they are reduced to “nymphomaniacs with no sexual discretion or preference.”  Furthermore, they must always be available for sex in order to achieve visibility.  Men are also dehumanized as they are reduced to “unfeeling, amoral, life-support systems for [feminine arousal]” and find value through the domination and degradation of women.  

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This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning how our culture is affecting our view of gender roles, our sexuality, and ourselves as individuals.  His message was so dynamic and so multi-faceted that I couldn’t possibly address all of the points in this post. But it was so powerful that I wouldn’t want you to miss out! So check out the teachings below:

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 1 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 2 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

There is, however, one topic, the idea of the “female double bind,” which I would like to highlight here because I believe it is an aspect of the problem which has infiltrated the Church and is therefore keeping us from fully engaging with God’s heart toward this issue.  This is yet another case of the Church trying to NOT be “in the world” and in effect becoming “of the world” (with our own Christian brand of course).  Hint: it’s supposed to be the other way around.  We’re supposed to be in the world but not of it!

The Female Double Bind

The female double bind is an “impossible dilemma that women and girls face in [our] sexist culture.”  It’s based on the premise of culture-grooming mentioned earlier. The double standard is that men who are groomed to be consumers of sex are celebrated when they reach this ideal, while women who are groomed to objectify their own sexuality are shamed when they reach the ideal.  It’s the irony of a mentality which calls a promiscuous male a stud, pimp, or player (a celebratory term) and calls a promiscuous female a slut or whore (a term of derision).  

Human-Trafficking-1024x688Basically, the female double bind means that a woman can’t win.  Only men are the winners (if it can even be called winning) in this type of culture and they win by wielding the invincible double bind to completely degrade and oppress women.

This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Nolot shared from a woman he interviewed who had formerly been prostituted.  She said, “We are very close to death.  All women are.  And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.  And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.”  

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Isaiah 61

Now, I don’t know about you, but when she says, “there is no escape for us,” it completely breaks my heart.  Why?  Because I know the man who was anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61/Luke 4).  And His word says that the same Spirit is upon me and upon every believer.  My heart breaks because I know that it’s the will of God that the Bride of Christ, His church, have the same broken heart for humanity that Jesus has, a heart moved to action with compassion by the sufferings of humanity who are under the burden of the exploitative nature of sin. 

So why then, if the Church has the authority to set captives free, would this woman feel she had no escape? 

strippersnIt’s the same reason that a woman I met who was working in a strip club took one look at our Bibles which say, “Jesus Loves Strippers” and boldly and sincerely asked our team, “Does He really?  Am I less than to Him because of what I do?”  Because, up until that point, she had only been met with condemnation from Christians who had chosen to degrade her character right along side the men in the clubs who exploited her.  She didn’t yet know about the Savior who sets us free.  The Savior who convicts but never condemns.  The Savior who loves her so immensely.  She didn’t yet know the Father who created her and saw her as lovely.  The Father who longs to be in relationship with her.  The Father who longs to bless her.  The Father who gave up and sacrificed His own son so that He could have her as His own daughter.  She didn’t know because no one had ever told her or shown her.  She didn’t know because all the Christians she had encountered had joined right along with the World in participating in what Nolot refers to as “slut shaming.”  She was expecting God to do the same. 

Church, we must guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  In rejecting sexual immorality, we have a tendency to also rejected people who are enslaved by the spirit of lust and perversion, especially women!  Women who are simply trying to survive in a pornified culture.  Women who don’t know the freedom found in Christ because we’ve not offered it to them.  Women who look at the Church and see the same double bind found in the strip club.  They feel degraded and vilified for conforming to culture no matter where they turn.  It’s completely understandable that they would choose, therefore, to stay within the context of culture rather than seek refuge in the Church.  Popular culture is familiar and the Church doesn’t feel at all like a refuge.  

isaiah61We have to have a better answer than that!  And I believe we do!  To quote Sarah Bessey, author of the book, Jesus Feminist, “The world is failing women, and we, the people of God, know the solution: our beloved Jesus and His Kingdom ways are good news, in every sense of the words!”  And I must tell you that I am beginning to see a huge shift in the way the Body of Christ is responding to women and I’m so encouraged by it!  Ministries such as Exodus Cry, BeLoved, Strip Church, and several others are breaking the female double bind both in the sex industry and within the Church.  Christ is stirring His Bride to go after the lost daughters and shower them with His love and honor.  And from what I’ve seen, it works.  Lo and behold, His Word stands true:  His goodness really does lead us to repentance.  And His light really does shine in the darkness.  And His mercies really are endless.  He really does set captives free, heal the broken-hearted, and bring dead things to life.  He really is the one who so loved the World!  

To bring this to a close, I want to invite and urge each of us as individuals to take a sincere inventory of his or her own heart.  How do I really feel about the so-called “soiled” woman?  Do I have God’s attitude toward her?  Or have I bought into the culture’s double bind?  

These are questions you must answer, because she’s asking you another question.  She’s asking you, “Does He really love me?”  

Here’s a hint:  God loves her as much as He loves you.  Why not go show and tell her?  Don’t know where to start?  Why not take your cue from Benjamin Nolot?  Begin by telling her: She is the “crown of God’s creation.”

Because, she is.