What I Saw and Learned

Oct 01, 2016

"Some of these men were not who I thought they were."

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear (ESV)
1 John 4:18

Quite a few of my worldviews needed to be challenged when I came to Thailand. First, you can't bring assumptions into a ministry where you seek to be a witness to men who participate in the prostitution industry. Assumptions in the red-light districts of Bangkok are built on fear. I assumed the "temptations" associated with the ministry dealt almost exclusively with lust. I assumed the personalities and motives of these men. I assumed their backgrounds and lifestyles. In truth, prejudice and judgment present a dangerous atmosphere that blocks the capacity for love. The first part of 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love". It is impossible to love someone if you're consumed by fear. It is also impossible to minister to someone if you don't have love for them. Therefore, I believe that it is difficult to minister truth if you're working on assumptions that are based on fear and not facts.

Another major milestone in my perceptions changing was in the understanding of sin. The way I looked at sin before was sporadic. I thought sin kind of just "happened". In regards to the temptation of sexual sin, as long as you're diligent against the flesh from time to time then you're basically immune to sin. But we see in Genesis 4:7 it says that "Sin is crouching at your door". What I saw out on the street was the deliberate plan of the enemy to draw people into a cycle of sexual addiction. From the harmless first beer, to shows that create curiosity and lust, to finally selling services to young and old, there is a plan to draw men into all that the sex industry offers. This illustrates to me that the enemy isn't dormant; he has a deliberate plan to exploit people's weaknesses. I'm reminded of Ephesians 6:12 which says that "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." No man or woman in this industry comes out victorious – all are being manipulated and exploited by the industry. I now believe that some of these men didn't ask for this kind of lifestyle. I came into this ministry thinking I would meet the worst of society, but I soon realized that many of these men aren't unlike my friends back home or even myself. Some have insecurities and relationship issues not unlike my own. Some have been overtaken by their lustful desires, and some are stuck in an addictive cycle that they find hard to break free from. It is not always easy to see the hurt and pain that actions in a red-light district can cause a person emotionally or physically. It's even harder to break free from those temptations. Thankfully, 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God "provides a way out so that you can stand under [temptation]".

Perfect love casts out fear. You can never convince anyone of anything unless they understand that you care about them. Romans 12:9 put things simple when it says "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Some of these men want their old way of life back. Some of them didn't think their indulgence in frivolous sex could have come this far. Some of them aren't ready to take that step yet. Our job as believers is to demonstrate God's unconditional love and be obedient to His call to be available to the people who are ready. The men here are engaging in the activities of a society built on the idea that sex is a commodity. These men are brothers, fathers and friends to someone, somewhere. We are all sinners and we all need the genuine love of Christ to impact us, and the timeless truth of God's Word to transform us.