Do Justice, Love Kindness

My mother is an alcoholic and like many alcoholics her journey has been about peaks and valleys. She'd been at a peak for quite some time but with a disease like alcoholism if you aren't diligent a peak becomes a cliff and you suddenly find yourself in a valley. A couple weeks ago my mom found herself in one such valley and took her first steps toward a new peak, she sought treatment. It was Saturday morning when I found out that she'd relapsed and checked herself in to a treatment center two states away from where she lives. By the time I knew what was happening she was already checked into the facility and detoxing, meaning speaking to her was impossible. Within a few hours I got another message from my dad, my parents are divorced but my brother had told him what was happening. He sent a single sentence with a link to an article, "This is the place she's in..." 

What did people do before Google? I spent the next 30 hours glued to my phone as I surfed through dozens and dozens of websites calling this facility out, warning people away and sharing the stories of those they loved who had been through this program. The quickest and easiest way to explain the situation is also the most dramatic and unbelievable, but I promise you it’s also the truth. This place was the front for a cult. After crying and praying and researching and struggling to know how to handle the situation I told my husband I just needed a minute of fluffy pretty life where I didn't have to think. There was just the word of a couple dozen nameless internet people to go on and I wasn't sure how to proceed without knowing for certain what this place was. I just needed a break while my brain bounced back. We went to Target, home of all things wonderful, and I embraced sweet not thinking. For five whole minutes. As I stood in the bathroom textile section I got a call from the friend who had helped my mom seek treatment. As she told me the story of how they found this place tears began rolling down my cheeks. Everything she said was matching up with every account I’d read of how people got lured there, from the lies they tell potential clients to get them in the door down to the scamming tactics they used to fool the insurance company. I looked at my husband who simply said “Let’s go get her.” 

Believe it or not this is just the context of what I want to talk about, this story is just the catalyst for something the Lord placed on my heart. I haven’t gone into detail about what I found online, and from here won’t go into detail about how the Lord showed off in helping me and Aaron get my mom out of there. It’s an incredible story about the power of God and someday I will tell it as it’s own story, and not just the backdrop to something else. Suffice it to say that after the longest day of my life and with the help of three law enforcement officers who I will be eternally thankful for we got my mom out. The more I learned about the place, the more the police shared their experiences and the more she herself told me, the longer the reality of what we had done sunk in all I could think was “How could this happen? How could someone do this to people?"

In an effort to find some kind of satisfying answer I have spent the weeks since this happened reading up on different cult leaders and groups and the psychology of how cults attract and maintain a following. The power of every single cult and cult leader hinges on taking advantage of the brokenness in this world, and the pain of the people in it. Their power hinges on being able to fill a need in someone, that is the bait. When you fill a need for someone they begin to feel something for you, gratefulness, appreciation, even love. 

Be warned, I’m about to say some incendiary things. 

These groups take advantage of a vacuum that is created when the people of God forget that He has charged us to love and care for the people of this world as if they are our own selves. When the Church forgets to care for the needy and feed the starving and defend the defenseless and love every last stranger we open the door for those who would take advantage of the needy and the starving and the defenseless and the unknown. When we forget to shine the light of God’s love in the darkness we leave people alone in their pain and grief, we leave them to those who would fill their needs only to twist them around in deception. 

Maybe you’re thinking I don’t know anyone in a cult or even in danger of being in a cult, but I want to connect it for you: this isn’t just about PEOPLE who would twist and deceive the hurting, it’s about the devil himself. This is his MO, this is how he operates, he offers a counterfeit peace, a counterfeit happiness, he offers lies and deceptions to those in the dark and then twists them around and keeps them mired in untruths and bondage. You may not know anyone at risk to joining a cult but we all know those at risk to believing the enemy’s lies, they are our friends and our families and the people who live on our street and the people who drive next to us on the highway and the people in line with us at the grocery store or sitting next to us on the train.

What would our lives look like if we shined the light that is God’s love into peoples darkness? What would their lives look like? 
Sometimes it feels so big, it feels so overwhelming, how could I make a difference? The Bible says "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it" (John 1:5). The light it's talking about is Christ, the Word made flesh. This passage calls Christ the light of all people (vs 4). This is the same Christ that is inside us, the same light inside us, and this light is designed to chase the dark away. Micah 6:8 says "what else does God ask of you but to do justice and love kindness?" Are there two any better ways to shine a light into someone's brokenness than these?!

Kindness, as simple as a smile and gentle word to the people that you come into contact with each day. Justice, as inconvenient as driving across state lines to literally remove someone from the grasp of evil. Why do we let these opportunities to be inconvenienced for the sake of showing someone else the love of God, and maybe, through that, piercing their darkness, go by? We all do it, a hundred times a day we make the choice to leave someone with their needs and in pain, it seems too big or we don’t have time or feel embarrassed or we simply don’t realize the person standing next to us is on the brink of believing a devastating lie. We leave them in darkness and keep our light to ourselves, and we leave a vacuum for them to be swept up by those that would keep them in that bondage. 

Before we left to get my mom, my aunt told me "You're being an incredible example of God's love." All I could think was how?? It didn't feel incredible or explemplary, it just felt like what you do when someone you love is in such a terrible place. 

Maybe that's what it's supposed to feel like when you shine the light of God's love into the dark corners of a broken world. Maybe it's supposed to feel like just what you do. Maybe it isn't about the size of the action or how well we know the person, maybe love is just supposed to be the automatic response to everyone in every moment. Yes we would all do these things for someone we know, someone close to us, but what about the least of these? The strangers? Hebrews says don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, some have done this and entertained angels. Christ says what you do for the least of these you do for me. It’s easy to call ourselves Christians and say that we love everyone, but only ever act out that love for those closest to us. If I learned anything driving away from that place it was that not everyone has someone close to them to rescue them. Plenty of people get left behind in darkness. The Bible says that as Christians those people are our responsibility, 1 John 3:17 asks how can the love of God be in someone who does nothing to help someone in need, Isaiah and Jeremiah both say to correct oppression and deliver the poor from the hand of the oppressors, over and over the Bible commands us to take up the plight of the widows and orphans and fatherless, God implores us to become the family of those who don't have one! 

There is always, always something we can do to shine a light in someone else's dark place. And if we do that then maybe we will take a big chunk out of the number of people vulnerable to the lies and deceptions and counterfeits the enemy sells, there will be less people willing to sell their loyalty to false prophets and twisted men set on binding others in their brokenness. If we do that we will strike a blow for the Kingdom of God and we will truly be fulfilling the call of the Lord on each of our lives. 

For me I feel so convicted, the people still back there in that building weigh on me heavily. We're working with local police and the district attorney there to get that place shut down. But it doesn't feel like enough. I want to be someone who brings light in the darkness before the situation gets that desperate. It is my prayer that everywhere I go the Lord would open doors for me to be a light, big or small, that my eyes would be opened to the endless opportunities to show someone the love of God, the light of Christ that drives out the dark, and that I would be courageous enough to step into those moments, every time. 

{all verses quoted are ESV}