Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
— Isaiah 58:6:7
The following is an excerpt from A World Free Vol. 1 / Abide.
Pray with fasting that the oppressed would be set free, that every yoke of bondage would be broken, and that the naked and exposed would covered. While many of us understand what it means to free the oppressed and break every yoke, it might be a bit more difficult for us to resonate with the commandments to cover the naked and not hide from our own flesh. Until we began to understand that when God commands us to clothe the naked, He doesn’t just mean to clothe the physically naked; He is also commanding us to “clothe” the emotionally naked, the relationally naked, and the spiritually naked—which, at different times and in different ways, is “our own flesh” or, all of us.
Persons who have survived trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of sexual exploitation, deserve the dignity of emotional and spiritual covering after the trauma of being used and abused, often by family members or friends who should—or promised to—cover them with affection and protection.
The trouble is it’s possible to unwittingly—and hurtfully—re-expose those who have recovered.
If we truly want to be Jesus’ hands and feet, we have to believe that someone’s journey, someone’s story—all our journeys, all our stories—are sacred and act accordingly, with empathy, compassion, and wise restraint. As Christians, we are not entitled to another person’s story. Yes, we are called bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but rushing to retell and relive a person’s traumatic abuse—even for the sake of sharing a testimony of God’s “amazing rescue, and restoration”—can lead to harm.
We ought to respect the autonomy of anyone who is bravely sharing his or her heart, history and healing and avoid pushing for more descriptive details or personal information or accusing someone for not leaving their situation (nor should we be naïve enough to think it’s that easy).
When we do these things, whether in the public forum or in interpersonal relationships, we are inviting ourselves into a painful part of another person’s life as if it were our claim. Where we are called to cover and protect, we thoughtlessly expose and re-exploit. Numerous passages in the Bible show us God’s desire for us to cover each other when we are naked and ashamed, because, ultimately, He wants to demonstrate how He covers all in the blood of Jesus.
If we truly believe the blood of Jesus has fully covered us, we will seek to cover—not re-expose—survivors of human trafficking, or porn production, or strip clubs, or sexual abuse, or any of the other forms of exploitation that occur every day, all around us. We must allow the light we have been given through Jesus to cover someone else’s darkness.
So much of the time it is difficult for us to believe in the redemptive power of the blood of Christ because we cannot let go of our own sins or suffering even after we have repented or found relief. We cope with this burden by pointing out other people’s sins or hurts so that we do not feel alone. But we have to remember that while we falsely believe our sins are written in stone or that our suffering defines us, God planned redemption through Jesus in the garden and He covered our sin and shame before we even knew we were sinners (Genesis 3:15, 21). Our Savior has cast our sins “as far as east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) and recorded our name—not our sins—in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12).
Our gracious, merciful, and redeeming Father knows more about the spiritual nakedness of other people than we do. He knew about our spiritual nakedness when we were still scrambling for fig leaves, and He began to cover us then. When we spend time with Him, we begin to look, sound, and act more like Him, and He will teach us how to do the same for others.