Loyalty is an ever-developing revelation for me. Working for many years with survivors of sexual exploitation and complex trauma, as well as being a mom, daughter, sister, friend—the injustices are very personal. Loving my enemies and seeking justice can easily present as two opposing pursuits.
When loving and aligning with people, their enemies and offenses can become ours to wrestle through as well. Part of how we advocate is by taking a stand against what has been committed against them and confronting abusive systems. Survivors have often suffered years of being silenced and hidden. We want to create visibility and amplify their voice. Rightfully so. The problem is when we begin amplifying anger and offense. Very subtly it can be woven into the fabric of our organizations and the undertone of our messages. We can slowly sabotage our efforts as we confuse offense with solidarity. Roots of bitterness form underneath the surface until, instead of promoting healing connection, we are creating further division and even spiritual defilement.
Jesus said “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended with Me.” We may ask—how could anyone be offended by people receiving healing? Could it be that society had deemed certain categories of people as undeserving? Why was Jesus consistently challenged while He was doing good? Was it that He was interfering with their current paradigms of social justice?
In the Bible, when Jonah was sent to Nineveh, he was offended when God asked him to preach salvation to the inhabitants of that city. Jonah didn’t think the Ninevites deserved God’s mercy. In the book of Joshua, before the Israelites began to possess the Promised Land, Joshua encountered the Lord. He asked if the Lord was for Israel or for their adversaries. The Lord responded with “No, but as the Commander of the Lord’s Army I have now come.” It seems God is less into sides and more into salvation. He pursues redemption for all, yet without violating loyalty or covenant to anyone. There is mystery in this and we are invited to trust.
Stages of emotional development and brain growth show us that black and white processing is a feature of a young child. They need rigid categories to determine what is safe, what is good, and what to trust. Typical thoughts are “you are either for me or against me” or “it is either this or that.” Polarized thinking is also a feature of trauma and a dissociative mind, in which “all good” or “all bad” can be a survival response. My belief is that both emotional immaturity and trauma have contributed to our tendencies to view the world and people this way. There is a process of learning how to hold tensions and engage with complexities.
It becomes perplexing as we heal and grow in God. Our understanding of His ultimate goals for restoration begin to challenge our definitions of loyalty. We are confronted with what we thought were justified offenses. We begin to see loyalty to God as being one with His nature. To emulate Him and His desires rooted in love, justice, humility, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. These realities take on forms we did not once expect. Yet He desires that none should perish, but all to have eternal life. Our loyalty is identifying with Christ and His desire toward every person we encounter. Often we will know we are growing when He begins putting this to the test.
I personally never thought I would be sitting with Johns and extending empathy. The idea used to feel like betrayal. Now I sit in session with a John one hour and in the next hour sit with a woman who has been exploited. It does not divide me or contradict conviction. If anything, I sense a greater movement toward my wholeness – and the wholeness of God’s family. I’m sitting, as a broken-resilient person, with other broken-resilient people who are the focus of His desire. Every one has in some way perpetrated and has been victimized. Every one hopes for redemption and something more. I feel even more empowered to advocate for justice and truth and love. Those are standards that remain and protect the integrity of empathy. As many of you can closely relate, I entered this field because I saw Jesus in it and wanted to be with Him. The way He sees and relates to people is far more multidimensional and as long as there is breath in someone’s lungs to choose Him, He can transform and heal. When God releases glory like that, it vindicates all.
After several years of experience with trauma and recovery, Kezia believes healthy families are the linchpin to all human growth and restored design. She received her M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Azusa Pacific University and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked exclusively with survivors of sex trafficking and their support systems, while also developing and overseeing a residential aftercare program. Through the adoption of her daughter, Kezia has seen Jesus’ glory in family and the restoration He brings through the process. Her desire is to nurture the healing integration of individuals, families, and communities – that what were once cycles of abuse are turned into blessings for future generations.
This article was originally published in Kezia’s regular column “Exodus to Flourish” in our Summer 2018 Issue