Vulnerable: Rethinking Human Trafficking by Raleigh Sadler is a non-fiction book on the ways Christians can help fight against human trafficking. The book is definitely needed as we consider how to love our neighbors. Sadler wrote Vulnerable with the view that when we remember our vulnerabilities, we can see other people’s vulnerabilities and help them get out of situations where they are being trafficked. Sadler’s book is divided into six sections and even has a list of 100 things to do to combat trafficking, which is really helpful. I learned that human trafficking is not just being smuggled from one place to another:
“In reality, someone does not need to be “taken,” physically beaten, or chained to be trafficked.” (p. 29)
Vulnerable was eye-opening to a lot of information about human trafficking. However, Vulnerable took me a month to get through because of the way it was written; Sadler showed in his writing style the struggles he had with Scripture and his beliefs. That style of writing really made me have to fight to get through the book, even though the subject matter is so important to learn. I took notes while reading to help me organize my thoughts on all that Sadler wrote; there was a lot of information to take in and evaluate throughout the book. Because of past experiences with false teaching in books, I now take more time to hold up what I read to Scripture and weigh it against truth. That being said, I really took a close look at the things that Sadler had to say in Vulnerable.
One of the first things that I noticed was for a “Christian” book geared toward Christians, Sadler does not really use a lot of Scripture until about Chapter 2. There are a lot of personal stories first before going into Scripture to really get at what we are called to do in the fight against human trafficking. I see this as being a style or writing choice that Sadler or his editor made, making this book a little harder for me to get through. It goes against “the grain” of books I have read before.
On page 81, Sadler shows the working out of his thoughts and beliefs, and the struggle he had really shows up in his writing to me. He struggled with the idea of how his study of God’s Word did not line up with his actions; in writing about it, Sadler ends up saying that there is little to no helpfulness in studying and meditating on God’s Word:
“Additionally, in the early church, justice was not a suggestion as much as an expectation. The commands to love God, to love others, and to do justice are found in the law of God. These imperatives fall on each of us, yet we fail to keep them. Christ kept the law in its totality, perfectly, and suffered punishment on our behalf. This good news did for us what study and meditation cannot do. It realigns our focus to love God and others before ourselves.” (p. 81)
I think I understand that Sadler was struggling with how his life did not reflect what he studied in God’s Word. In chapter 5, Sadler continues his quest to figure out how the Gospel and Christ changes the world. Over and over again, Sadler uses the term “good news” instead of the word Gospel (see pg. 81, 85, 86, 88, 98); it was an interesting word choice. It made me wonder what Sadler considered to be the “good news,” until he finally discussed it on page 228. Also, on page 86, Sadler comes really close to the prosperity gospel with this sentence:
“This “good news” is that Jesus is bringing a salvation that is holistic. He desires to save us from material poverty as well as spiritual poverty. Christ didn’t come to earth and become poor like us to only redeem a part of us. He wants to save us in our entirety. In other words, he cares about our physical needs as well. The arrival of the present / future kingdom of God is proof.” (p.86)
I understand that when we help people, God calls us to not only share the Gospel with people but to help their physical needs too. See these Bible verses:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:26-27
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” – James 2:15-16
However, Jesus does not promise us riches in this world; He points to when He returns as to the time when we will be rewarded. He says that here on earth, we will have trouble; however, He will be with us, so we do not have to be afraid when facing persecution and trials when standing in His truth. See these Bible verses:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:19-20
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
From that, we see that we are not guaranteed a fat paycheck here on earth just because we follow Christ. Instead, when we follow Christ we must count the cost first and understand we will have trouble in this life when we follow Christ. However, we are steadfast in following Christ because we know that our reward does await us – when Christ returns. So is Sadler approaching the prosperity gospel? I am not sure, so I kept reading to see what else he might say.
Then, Sadler writes on pages 93 and 94 that in reading Psalm 41, you see a promise to be protected physically while helping people:
“David continues, ‘In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.’ Psalm 41:1-3
…Naturally, we feel that we can only survive if we protect ourselves and our families from those who would threaten us or our lifestyles. But notice what David is saying: Your protection doesn’t fall on you. Because of God’s grace, you are now freed from the incessant need to protect yourself, and are set free to protect others. (p. 93-94).
The way that Sadler writes this section with Psalm 41 is taking it out of context. Because Scripture interprets Scripture, we cannot take one little section out and say this is what it means because we could be totally wrong. Please see this article on Interpreting Scripture by Ligonier Ministries and How Does Scripture Interpret Scripture? by Answers in Genesis for more information on that particular topic.
Therefore, it sounded pretty close to the prosperity gospel again. I kept reading to make sure I correctly understood Sadler. On page 98, Sadler says that Christ quotes Psalm 41 during the Last Supper, which is exactly who Psalm 41 ultimately is about – Jesus! It felt like Sadler was taking us in the backwards way of going through Scripture throughout the entire book. So it seems as if on page 98, Sadler was finally getting the hermeneutics right because he focused on Christ. Our motivation for helping people must be because of Christ and the ultimate help He gives to us.
Anyway, once getting past the writing style or the hermeneutics, I saw a few other tricky things. On page 126, Sadler says that a “FEMALE PASTOR” decided to do a series on human trafficking. That’s a problem! Scripture speaks against female pastors:
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” – 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Therefore, I find there are some issues with this book; however, if you are looking for a book on how to combat human trafficking, this might be an option for you. Take what you read with a grain of salt and a whole lot of Jesus. There are still some important things you can learn about human trafficking and how to help people in this book. Sadler does admit he struggled with his beliefs, even as he entered into seminary (see page 226); part of this may have stemmed from losing his mother to HIV in a situation where she helped someone get medical treatment (page 194). Sadler’s journey of faith is shared throughout the book, which explains his passion for human trafficking and loving people in their darkest times. The best interview that Sadler did in this whole book, in my opinion, starts on page 229; Sadler interviews Dr. Michael Horton about gospel motivation in helping people who have been through human trafficking.
In summary, I see a lot of good information in this book; I also see some things that do not align with Scripture. I did cut this review short because if I went through all of my notes; this review would be well over 2,000 words. When I review a book, I do not want to hurt people’s feelings, but I do want to point to truth. If nothing else, check out this book to see the list of 100 things to combat human trafficking because that is really helpful. Overall, I give this book a three out of five stars. I received this book from B&H publishers for an honest review through https://www.bhbloggers.com/.