If you are not familiar with the movie 'Taken' let me give you brief synopsis. Liam Neeson plays an ex CIA agent, whose daughter is kidnapped by a gang of people traffickers, who specialise in providing western girls to wealthy men.
Whilst speaking to the lead kidnapper on the phone, Liam says the following:
"I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money; but what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career; skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don’t…I will look for you…I will find you…and I will kill you.”
In the context of a movie, this is aimed at stirring in the viewer ideas of revenge, retribution, and justice. It's hard to resist applauding the lead character's zeal in finding his daughter.
When you look a little more closely at the words, however, you start to realise that they have nothing to do with justice. Essentially he is saying to the kidnappers "If you let my daughter go, you can carry on with your sex trafficking enterprise". Hardly an act leading to justice.
In essence, the daughter is saved but the system continues.
I can't help but see this as a mirror of how we evangelicals often approach mission and evangelism. We have been handed a gospel that is so aimed at the redemption of individuals that we have forgotten that we are also supposed to challenge the principalities and powers that control our world.
Evangelicals have been conditioned to think that any criticism of the prevailing worldview is to be political and therefore not part of the 'pure' gospel; whatever that is!
I want to suggest that we should push back at this idea. Any attempt to help or save the individual without giving thought to how we might end the injustice that has oppressed them in the first place is to act like Liam Neeson's character.
So when we build orphanages but fail to petition governments to change their policies, we are saying the gospel is not about justice. When we run missions to help prostitutes find freedom but remain silent about the powers that force them to such modern day slavery, we are saying the gospel is not about justice. When we set up organisations that help people become free from debt but stay silent about the politicians who have encouraged such economies, we are saying that the gospel is not about justice.
Saving the 'one' must always be part of what see as essential to our gospel message but without addressing the systemic evils that cause the problems we are effectively saving our own daughters whilst letting others continue to be abused. That's not what I would call justice.