“Men are not the problem. Men are the solution.”
So often we love to wrap complicated issues in simple paradigms and leave it at that. Identify a problem. Who is causing the problem? Who is receiving the hurt? How do we solve the problem? Figure it out – done deal. It is the DC way, not to mention the human condition.
However- many of the social justice issues around which we try to wrap our brains are far more complicated and cannot be simplified in such terms. Such is the case with human trafficking – particularly with Men in the Sex Trade, or MST.
Yesterday we had the privilege of hearing from Chris Lenty, who relayed the mission that he shares with a small staff at the MST Project in Bangkok, Thailand. Their mission is to reach out to the consumers in the sex industry – men who buy sex.
“What is your perception of men who buy sex?” Chris asked the group of 50 or so who showed up in the basement of Ebenezers Coffee House to hear his presentation. Some said broken people, others said dirty old men, still others said that consumers of sex are complicated.
Chris spoke about grace, and about the reach of the Holy Spirit. He challenged us to refuse to put limits on God. There is no man that God can’t reach. There is no case too big for God, and there is no hurt too deep for God to reach.
With a brusque tone and a rather off-hand demeanor, Chris shared his love for the men in Bangkok. He said that he sees himself in them and cannot imagine judging them for their actions when there is a larger picture at hand. All people who use coping mechanisms like sex on a regular basis have pain and hurt. Chris shared that he is called to reach out to the hearts of these men and see them the way that God sees them.
Chris also spoke about the sex trade and how men are not the problem but part of the solution. He said that he had been challenged by the enormity of the industry and rather than focus on the outcome, he decided to focus on the relationships. He learned that men are part of the solution.
It is so easy to focus on men as the villains but they are only one part of a very broken system. The other parts include government corruption, broken family systems, broken economic systems, among other things. He said that in the long vision, men who have been touched by God go back to their families and become better husbands and better members of their communities. It may not happen quickly, but it is worthy of the investment.
This is the second time I have heard Chris speak and his message speaks to me on many levels. I may not be able to say that I see myself in men who buy sex, but I can say that I see myself in various other things that are painful – and this is an excellent reminder of the value of staying humble and engaging in relationships. There is incredible merit in being aware of the extent to which I have been saved by Christ and approaching my relationships that way. It puts us all on the same playing field – sinners, saved by grace.