Exploitation's End

My growing awareness that the issues of exploitation and vulnerability are likely the basic criteria for entrance into the society of heaven weighs heavily on me. It is becoming so clear in my mind that I at times shudder as I sense how pervasive is this spirit of exploitation, not only in the world but in my own heart. The more I realize how infected I am and have been all my life by this spirit, the more appalled I become as I sense my own unreadiness to live in the presence of saints and angels.

As I have pondered this over the past few days another insight has come to my attention. Like nearly everything in Satan's kingdom, exploitation is a counterfeit of something important that God created that is good, positive and life-giving. But at this point I have not been able to discover a specific word that seems to express a counterpart for exploitation. Maybe it is because we are so acclimated to counterfeits and so unfamiliar with God's original design that possibly we do not even have a word for what is being mimicked by exploitation. Or maybe I have just not discovered it yet. Either way, I have noticed that there is an after-effect that seems clear and can be contrasted that is identifiable. That has to do with bonding.

I learned from Dr. James Wilder a number of years ago about the concept of emotional bonding and how central it is in God's plan for our lives. Since our normal state we were designed to have is joy, or being glad to be together, this kind of joy deepens bonds of affection and attachment between people that can last for eternity. I have shared other places about joy bonds and how attachments are so central to living as a true Christian, being knit together with other hearts by the Spirit of God. I am convinced that this was the intense experience enjoyed by the early Christian believers that has largely been lost in the intervening 1700 years since the glory of God as revealed in Jesus was eclipsed by religion promoting dark views about God's character. But that is another topic.

Joy is possibly the most evident mark of being filled with the Spirit of God. But joy was something that was unfamiliar to me growing up, so for years I puzzled over just what that word might mean. Honestly, I could not wrap my mind around what this word might refer to, for I had no experience that seemed to fit what is was supposed to describe. I sensed that it had to mean something different than simply happiness. Thus it was not until I heard it explained by Jim Wilder that it finally began to make sense, at least intellectually.

Experiencing it at the heart level is another thing though, but I will say that there have been occassions in my life when I unmistakably experienced joy that I will never forget. Quite clearly at least one of those times was far from an experience I would equate with happiness. But on that day during one of the most shaming experiences of my life, my wife and I had the incredible blessing of a couple who stayed with us all the way to the end and then invited us into their home to demonstrate what it feels like to have someone glad to be with you even when everyone else has deserted you. That experience has become a window of what real joy actually means ever since.

The outcome of joy is the forming of positive attachment bonds. Now what I am starting to see is that exploitation is designed to produce just the opposite sort of bonds – fear bonds. And maybe in thinking this through I may have have clues about the original that is the counterpart of the counterfeit practice of exploitation. Maybe joy is that original which has since been perverted by Satan into exploitation.

Fear bonds are a well known phenomenon to psychologists who have studied patterns and the effects of abuse. One of the reasons abusers have such influence and lasting power over their victims is through the use of fear bonds created through specific techniques of abuse. A person can be induced through confusing mixed messages to bond with the person abusing them even though the power of fear bonds is mainly fear. But fear is an unstable bond so an experienced abuser knows how to use a combination of affection, gifts, promises and threats to cement the attachment of the other person to themselves. As they draw their victim deeper into their enticements the abuse intensifies. By making the victim feel responsible for the abuse they become identified in the life of the abuser and feel helpless to break free of the cycle of abuse. This entire scenario is well documented many places, but what I want to note here is how this entire thing is really about exploitation.

What we think of as abuse is only the extreme version of exploitation. I think that is probably accurate. But exploitation is not limited to just extremely abusive situations as we might like to imagine. It is easy to point at blatant abusers and accuse them of being exploiters, but in doing so we are subtly shifting attention away from our own complicity in this evil. Yet what I am starting to perceive with shuddering awareness is that every one of us is an abuser. Sin itself is the practice of abuse and exploitation, and since every human born on this planet came with a predisposition of selfishness and sin, everyone of us are also complicit in exploiting others for our own advantage. This is unavoidable, but I do not point this out in order to condemn or shame but simply so that we can start to be more honest about just how involved each of us is in this problem. We all desperately need the transforming grace of God to change us and make us fit for a society where everyone is extremely vulnerable.

A spirit of exploitation (something all of us have to some degree) is aroused by an awareness of vulnerability. Consequently many of us have assumed that our problem is that we are too vulnerable. We have come, at least subconsciously, to assume that we must work better on protecting ourselves, hiding our vulnerabilities, even denying them as the best way to avoid exploitation.

But I really wonder if this is not just another trick of the devil to keep us focusing in the wrong direction. Because what I have been learning is that vulnerability itself is essential for living in the joys of heaven. So if we feel compelled to hide our vulnerabilities and spend enormous effort building walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, in essence we are unfitting ourselves to live among totally vulnerable beings that populate God's heaven. Just as indulging in exploitation unfits us to live in heaven's atmosphere of total freedom, joy and love, so too hiding our vulnerability and seeking to build thick walls of protection around our hearts unfits us to experience joy, both future and present.

We live in a world saturated with an atmosphere of fear. Fear creates powerful bonds that control and manipulate us. This is what abuse and exploitation are all about, manipulating people through the use of intimidation and fear. Nations rely on fear and intimidation to assert control, not only over their own citizens but to gain power over other nations. This is the history of nations and can be seen clearly in the news every day. Fear bonds are the most familiar kind of bonds we see around us while joy bonds seem almost rare to non-existent much of the time. Yet the kingdom of heaven revolves exclusively around joy bonds meant to bring about healing and freedom from all fear (1 John 4:18).

I am starting to see now that the mission of Jesus coming to this earth was not only to reveal the real truth about God, but also to rescue us from the many fear bonds that suffocate life out of our souls. Fear comes in many forms and has many effects preventing us from experiencing the abundant life that God designed for us to enjoy, and the Bible sums them all up in a phrase – the fear of death.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Fear is the byproduct of exploitation. Exploitation itself is an expression of selfishness, for to exploit means to take advantage of a perceived weakness to gain something we want for ourselves with little concern for the person we are exploiting. A spirit of exploitation is driven by selfish lust, causing us to see vulnerable people or situations with a view to how that person or thing might be manipulated to satisfy our own needs or cravings.

But this is very opposite of the spirit demonstrated by Jesus who said plainly that He had not come to be served but to serve (Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). People who want to be served instead of serving are infected with a spirit of exploitation, for selfishness always leads one to exploit others for their own advantage. This is why it is necessary that we come to recognize that each of us is infected with this spirit of exploitation.

If we say that we have no sin [spirit of exploitation], we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [admit we are selfish and exploit others], He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Sin revolves around exploiting the vulnerable. Therefore to say that we do not exploit others is to deny that we have sin in our hearts. It may be difficult to admit, but if we want to become fitted to enter into the society of God's family of heaven, we must get real about the extent of our own involvement in this problem.

At the same time, the more honestly I see how much I am infected with this spirit the more I can feel discouraged as I realize how totally unfit I still am to be trusted around vulnerable hearts or situations. It is much easier to maintain the superficial standards of external Christianity than to get real about the convicting indictment of the Spirit of Jesus. But if I want to be serious about living among God's family I must be willing to become totaly honest about the extent of my own sickness and make myself vulnerable to the entrance of truth.

Maybe this is where the real crux of much of my problem lies. In light of the many distortions I have been taught and have assumed about how God relates to sinners, I am naturally reticent to open myself up to be very vulnerable with anyone. I may think that I am honest before God, but I find that deep in my heart I am afraid that if I become too vulnerable that at some point God is going to shame me or lay a guilt trip on me or threaten me with harm or punishment.

It it these false assumptions that prevent me from doing what is absolutely necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven – becoming totally vulnerable. But only by choosing to be vulnerable can I have my heart opened enough to experience the healing power of God's love and grace to deliver me from the bondage of fear. No wonder Satan is so insistent on convincing us that vulnerability is wrong and that we should avoid exposing ourselves too much to God or anyone else. By keeping me bound by fear of what might happen if I become too vulnerable, Satan effectively keeps me far enough away from God to experience the joy of freedom that Jesus came to provide for me.

So, what is the sum of what I am finding here?

Exploitation leads to the formation of fear bonds, enslaving us and destroying our heart's ability to function as designed. Fear of being vulnerable blocks us from experiencing fully the healing power of love and grace that God longs to pour into our lives to heal and restore us to the joy of His salvation.

God's answer in the plan of salvation (salvaging, healing) requires that we embrace vulnerability, especially in His presence, so that our hearts can become honest enough to admit our true condition and begin bonding to Him and to His children with the superior bonds of joy attachments.

Love is greater than fear. But Satan has claimed from the beginning of his rebellion that fear has the greater power. Eventually he came to assert that agape love does not even exist at all, that it is only a hollow claim by God to manipulate His creatures into compliance to His rules. But Jesus demonstrated explicitly in His life and especially in His death that agape love really does exist and that it is willing to keep loving and forgiving and will make itself completely vulnerable no matter what we do to intimidate Him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God as Paul so eloquently expounded in Romans 8. I believe this is not just referring to those who respond positively to His love but to everyone whether or not they choose to allow it into their hearts.

Exploitation is really a lie from the pit of hell that has now become so familiar to us that we often assume that God uses it when it suits His purpose. But exploitation is at the very core of Satan's rebellion, for Lucifer began his revolt by exploiting the reputation of God as well as the vulnerable condition of innocent angels who were ignorant of evil or the dangers of deception. By manipulating the facts and making insinuations about God and relying on deceit and inferences about God's character, Lucifer morphed himself into the great accuser (the definition of the term Satan) through exploitation. Therefore exploitation lies at the very center of what it means to revolt against God.

In this light it only stands to reason that for anyone to ever be trusted to be allowed to reenter the society of innocent vulnerable beings who were left in heaven, that person must be free of this spirit of exploiting vulnerability. Angels and other vulnerable beings do not see their vulnerability as something to be avoided but know by experience that being open, transparent and vulnerable is essential to their joy and is the means by which their hearts are bound together in love and holy affection. They are also keen to prevent their atmosphere from being contaminated by anyone who might introduce selfishness into their society, and they are certainly not willing to allow anyone in who would endanger the joy of that place who might exploit anything or anyone there.

I am coming to see that very possibly the way that Satan was cast out of heaven was not because God forced him to leave but rather because the angels who chose to remain loyal to God's way of doing things refused to allow any place for Satan's exploitive practices to continue any longer. The hosts of heaven were sick and tired of hearing Satan and his followers bad-mouth their loving Creator and deride all who refused to agree with their incessant arguments. So Satan and his followers became foreigners to the pure atmosphere of heaven and were unwelcome there, so that all remained could feel free to live openly and vulnerably again as they had enjoyed before the rebellion began.

God is now planning to introduce redeemed human sinners into this pure and vulnerable atmosphere of innocent beings, so it would seem obvious that they would have legitimate concerns about the viability of His plan. And because God respects the opinions of all His created beings He is willing to wait until every last one of them is freely willing to go along with His plan. These future neighbors of ours are likely intently observing what God is doing in our lives right now to see if we are willing to become completely free of this spirit of exploitation. This may the key issue being watched that will convince the inhabitants of heaven to agree with God to move forward with His program to repopulate the vacancies in heaven with salvaged sinners who have absorbed His Spirit and are willing to live vulnerably like everyone else there.

That is the big picture as I am starting to see it. But how does this relate to my life here and now?

If I am really serious about wanting to live among holy angels and come into the presence of God, given these truths I must be willing to move fully into complete vulnerability before God while at the same time being cleansed of every vestige of desire to exploit. This is only possible by receiving the presence of Jesus to dwell inside of me, for it is impossible to change myself. Because I am born with inherent faulty predisposition, I will never be able to free myself of the spirit of exploitation. As I die to myself and my selfish nature each day and allow the Spirit of God to resurrect me into a new life, Jesus' Spirit becomes the dominant compelling motive of my heart and I can experience the joy of freedom and be delivered from all fear that enslaves me.

As fear is removed from my heart and is replaced by true love, my desire to exploit is also exterminated and I discover the joy only found in true freedom to live and thrive the way God designed us to live. As I become willing to open up my heart and allow the healing power of God's love to flow through me to both my fellow believers and my enemies, my fear of being vulnerable can subside and like Jesus I can finally become willing to even lay down my life for those who seek to exploit me instead of trying to protect and defend myself from them.

This requires wisdom and maturity, for I sense there can be an inappropriate way of applying these principles. God is not asking us to make ourselves unnecessarily vulnerable in irresponsible ways for people to exploit at will. Jesus is our perfect example in this area. There are levels of vulnerability that are appropriate for different relationships but that are not appropriate for others. We need to become completely vulnerable before God more than anyone else; and making ourselves vulnerable to anyone requires a level of trust or faith which is what is lacking in most of our lives.

How could Jesus be willing to make Himself vulnerable to sinners when it was clear they were not trustworthy? He did not do so because He trusted they would not exploit Him but because He was led by the Spirit of God and He trusted God's leading fully. Peter wrote about this when in amazement he described what he saw in Jesus during those dreadful hours leading up to the cross.

God called you to endure suffering because Christ suffered for you. He left you an example so that you could follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Christ never verbally abused those who verbally abused him. When he suffered, he didn't make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 GW)

Christ allowed Himself to be exploited in order to break the power of exploitation by exposing it fully. By letting sinners exploit the innocence of God who had become human, exploitation itself was exposed for the evil that it really is. Then by resurrecting the crucified God, the power of fear that has held all of us in slavery all our lives was also broken, for we now can know that even death itself is no real threat since Jesus now holds the keys that can spring us from that prison and set us free.

God is asking us to renounce the ways of exploitation to live joyfully in the atmosphere of safe vulnerability with all His other children throughout the universe. All who refuse to give up the ways of exploiting will in the end become victims of exploitation itself, for the wages or ultimate effect of sin is to destroy its host just as cancer kills the very person in which it grows. Exploitation is a deadly disease that we cannot escape except for the intervention of God's healing grace to transform our hearts. But healed is what we must become if we are ever to be safe enough to live in the totally vulnerable society of heaven.

It is up to you and me today to choose whom we will serve: God who was willing to become so vulnerable that weak, selfish human beings could torture and kill Him, or the great exploiter who insists that we must do whatever it takes to get what we want no matter what it costs someone else.

The first choice leads to life eternal where all will feel safe to be transparent and vulnerable to everyone around them. The second choice is to live in increasing fear of being exploited while at the same time exploiting others to get what we fear will not be provided to us by our loving Father. Eventually this mindset leads to self-destruction, for life outside of love and service for others is incompatible with the design of creation itself.

Right now God is artificially sustaining all of us, blocking the full effects of sin and selfishness from destroying us to provide us a period of probation in which we may choose which way we will live our lives. When all have made their final choice as to which version of God they will serve and emulate, then the end can come and the fruit of the choices of both groups will be fully matured and God will allow the principles of natural law to bring about its full effect. God respects the choice of all who reject His government and will finally withdraw His protection from them according to their choice. Then after all who have chosen the path of rebellion have ceased to exist, the fully functional system of creation designed to operate on love alone can be restored to full capacity. Then for eternity the glory of God will be ever amplified and enjoyed by all who have chosen to live in that love.

One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love. {GC 678}


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