FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Fallen Nature of Man

with Gary Haugen | November 11, 2010
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How can a sovereign God allow such terrible atrocities to occur? Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, explains that when mankind turns its back on God, problems like violence and oppression are the end result.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • How can a sovereign God allow such terrible atrocities to occur? Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission, explains that when mankind turns its back on God, problems like violence and oppression are the end result.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How can a sovereign God allow such terrible atrocities to occur?

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The Fallen Nature of Man

With Gary Haugen
November 11, 2010
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Bob:   Confronting injustice in our world can be dangerous, like choosing to run into a burning building instead of running away.  Here is Gary Haugen.

Gary:  Whether I go into that building or not—if I see a burning building there; and I think, “There are some people inside.  Do I go in?  Should I risk—I don’t know; I might get hurt.”  I am hesitating, right? 

Let’s say I find out it is my daughter inside there.  Well, my goodness, perfect love is now casting out all those fears.  I am just going into the building.  I don’t have any more questions.  I don’t have any more hesitations because it is love that is propelling me in. 

Likewise, I think we manifest the love of Christ in the world—this scandalous love of Christ.  When Christians are found running to those places of hurt and darkness where others are running away. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 11th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  What is our responsibility as Christians to address the issue of injustice all around the world?  We are going to talk about that today. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us.  I was having a conversation—I’m trying to remember how long ago this was—a friend and I were talking about the Bible and the messages in the Bible—kind of what the main message of the Bible is.  He said, “I think most of us tend to focus in on the message of forgiveness which is a significant, central, powerful message of the gospel.”  But he said, “I think we have neglected that the message that is clear in Scripture is the message of justice, which is a key theme in God’s revelation to us.”

Dennis:  In fact, if you look at Matthew 23:23, Jesus had some of his most harsh words for the Scribes and the Pharisees when He said, “You weigh out the minor things of the Law...”

Bob:  Not, “You kind of...”  (laughter)  I think He was a little more strident.  (laughter)

Dennis:  Let me just read it here because anytime Jesus says, “Woe,” He is not talking about stopping a horse.

Bob:  That is right.

Dennis:  It is like, “Listen up!  Listen up!”  “Listen up you Scribes and Pharisees—hypocrites.”  How would you like to be called a hypocrite by the King of kings and Lord of lords?  “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law:”  To your point, Bob,  “justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” 

I think if Jesus is rebuking the religious community of His day, we ought to take a step back and go, “Now wait a second.  There are a lot of people who profess to follow Christ—who Jesus, if He were to step into their homes, their apartments where they live, might say, “Woe. I want you to take a look at the issue of injustice.”  

We have someone with us today who is going to help us do that.  Gary Haugen joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Gary, welcome back.

Gary:  Great to be with you, Dennis, Bob.

Dennis:  Gary is no stranger, Bob, to our listening audience.  He was on the broadcast back in 2005.  He is a graduate of Harvard.  In 1994, he was working for the US Dept. of Justice and was actually assigned by the Justice Dept. to work with the UN to investigate the atrocities and the genocide in Rwanda.  I want to get to this in a moment, Gary; but it had such an impact on you that in 1997 you started International Justice Mission.  He and his wife Jan and their four children live in the Washington, D.C. area. 

I want to go back to 1994 for a second and talk about this issue of injustice that Bob was raising here.  How old were you at the time?

Gary:  I was way too young.  I was 31 years old. 

Dennis:  Okay.  So here is a 31-year-old young man seeing unimaginable things.  You saw piles of bodies.

Gary:  Right. 

Dennis:  And bones and skulls in the most unlikely place in Rwanda.  Explain to our listeners where you saw the most murders occur.

Gary:  The truth of the genocide in Rwanda is that almost a million people were murdered in about eight weeks of time.  Most of the killing was done with machetes.  Most of it was done in churches. 

I was sorting through thousands and thousands of butchered human beings.  Most of them women, children, and old people.  The reason the killing took place in churches is because the Tutsi minority ran to the churches for sanctuary.  In previous years they found some safety there; but during the genocide of 1994, they found no safety. 

Dennis:  What I wanted to ask you is, “Here is a 31-year-old man.  How do you process your faith in God and belief that, as the Scriptures teach, ‘God is good’ with evil of unspeakable atrocities like that?”  I mean, it had to jar your faith at some level.

Gary:  For sure.  Even now, I don’t come up with easy answers or pat answers for what it actually feels like to stand in the midst of a mass grave where there might be 12,000 people who have been hacked to death by their neighbors. 

One of the things it certainly affirmed—for sure made very vivid—is the story from the Scripture of the fallen nature of the world.  I think I had gotten accustomed to the idea, “Yes, the fall of man took place thousands of years ago; but we are sort of managing things now.” 

The fact is, the fall of man was the utter rejection by human beings of the God who made him.  That means the rejection of the God of truth, the God of justice, the God of mercy, the God of love.  The results are catastrophic.  Stepping into genocide—what I was basically seeing was the ultimate manifestation of what happens when human beings turn their backs on God.  That suddenly became very, very vivid for me.

I think, also, what became clear to me is the problem in the world that flows from the fall of man that manifests itself in violence.  As Christians, we are used to dealing with a lot of problems.  The fact, “Well, the fall of man.  Yes.  Now people are sinful so now they don’t know God.  In some places it produces poverty, or breakdown in marriages, and so forth.” 

Well, there also is this powerful part of the fall of man that manifests itself in violence.  In fact, it is the murder of Abel by Cain that is one of the very first sins that emerges out of the fall.  Now, the question is, “How do followers of Jesus carry themselves in a world that is full of unfairness and injustice but also this oppression of violence?” 

That is what I was forced to come to grips with because when I was in those churches—what I was doing was re-creating the crime scene, right?   You are trying to vividly recreate, as you gather the evidence, “How did this actually happen?”  You painfully have to picture in your mind, “How these thousands of people were hacked to death?” 

What I realized, too:  Those people in that church in their moment of greatest terror and greatest need, they were not crying out to someone to bring them a sermon, or someone to bring them food, or a doctor, or a housing project.  They were crying out for someone to restrain the hand of the Oppressor.  That is when it became very vivid to me, “Wow.  Where are the people of God showing up for the people in the world who are in desperate need of someone to restrain the hand of the Oppressor?”

Dennis:  I want us to put a face on this.  You said there are 25 million people today in slavery.

Gary:  Right.

Dennis:  It is the equivalent of the state of Texas.

Gary:  Right.

Dennis:  Just picture 25 million people in a state—totally indentured slaves.

Gary:  Right.

Dennis:  Put a face on it, though.  Take us down to an individual boy, girl, man, or woman.  You can pick a couple.  Put a face on it for us.

Gary:  A couple of years ago, I took my teenage daughters, who are twins, to India with me so that they could see themselves an actual human being, a child, who was a slave.  With me, they met a young boy named Kumar who was living in a poor rural village in India. 

At the age of five, he was orphaned—his mother and father died.  By the age of 7, he was then sold into a brick factory where he was held with about 50 other men, women, and children who were forced to make bricks all day long.  What you should picture in your mind is a concrete facility—inside there is a massive kiln which produces thousands of bricks.  

Kumar’s job was to mix the wet clay and form it into bricks—the way you do it by hand like thousands of years ago when the Hebrews were in Egypt.  These would bake in the sun.   He would have to carry them on his head—sometimes loads of 25—up to

50 pounds of bricks on his head.

Dennis:  Now you are talking about a seven-year-old?

Gary:  I am talking about a seven-year-old.  I am talking about him doing this every day of the week, 12 to 14 hours a day, for years.  He will spend, unless there is some intervention, his lifetime in this brick factory.  In fact, people inside the brick factory had spent 15 years, 20 years.  Kumar is a picture of this little boy who has been made by God for an abundant life—to know God’s goodness—and yet he is completely trapped under the violent oppression of these slave owners running a brick factory.

Bob:  He is trapped because, if he tries to escape, he will be killed or because he has no means of support other than what they are providing?  Why is he trapped?

Gary:  They will beat him.  In fact, on days when he was just too sick to work, they would come and kick him in the head and drag him back to work.  No.  Slaves are held in these places—not by sort of a vague sense of, “I don’t have other options.”  It is the use of terror.  There are guards in these facilities.  People are beaten brutally.  They have witnessed murders themselves; they know what happens to those who try to run away.

Dennis:  Gary, you mentioned the slave owners—the guys who own this brick factory—what are they like?  I mean, to keep a bunch of children?  Is it all they have ever known so their sense of right and wrong is calloused and they are jaded?

Gary:  We know hundreds of them by name.  They run brick factories or rock quarries—sometimes brothels where they hold kids in sex slavery.  What is fascinating about it is they are, sure, deep into evil.  They have this tremendous capacity, actually, to not see the humanity of those who they are abusing because frequently they are parents themselves.  They have children—the brothel-keepers—sometimes they have children.  The people who run the rock quarries—they have children. 

They just put them into a different category of humanity.  They have a way of saying, “That child is outside my sphere of compassion.”  In fact, in some of these cultures, there is a religious cultural sense, “That person is destined for this status of service.”  They have a way of shutting down any compassion. 

If you think, too, of slave owners in the United States a 150 years ago—they were many times upstanding members of their community.  They were family-people, but they also had a sense in which a certain category of other people were not worthy of being treated as human beings—so they could be vicious. 

Here is the other thing you find.  If you have unrestrained power over another human being, this is a corrupting process where you then begin to treat them in even unnecessary ways of brutality.  We see the slave owners being gratuitously brutal—beating the kids just to assert their power; insulting them; grinding them down.  Once you deliver yourself over to the evil of oppressing other people, I believe, there is powerful demonic forces that begin to be at play in your spirit.  It takes you to a place of extreme violence. 

Bob:  I know International Justice Mission exists to try to rescue—to try to bring justice to the oppressed.  I am thinking one of the ways that has got to happen is to go to the oppressors to raise their sense—to preach the gospel to them in such a way that they become alert to the wickedness of their oppression.  Have you seen the transformation take place in the lives of oppressors who all of a sudden wake up and see the heinousness of their oppression? 

Gary:  This is a very interesting topic because in many ways some people say, “Justice and mercy—they seem to be in conflict with one another.”  Actually, we think it is an act of mercy and love to actually restrain the oppressor from abuse.  I don’t actually love a husband well by allowing him to continue to abuse his wife or to abuse his children.  That is not a pathway of love. 

In fact, the Bible shows that God has actually empowered the authorities to restrain abusers—to give them the opportunity for repentance.  One of things we do is help the local authorities bring to bear restraint upon those who are abusing others.  In fact, then it does provide this opportunity of repentance. 

Now, I can’t say that very many of them take that opportunity; but we do facilitate prison ministries to be able to go actually visit them.  We have actually done surveys of scores of sex traffickers to explore:  “What was beneath your story to come to this place?” because they are likewise a picture of the triumph of evil.  None of them started out in life wanting to be a complete horror to themselves and to others, but this has been the process of spiritual degradation.  Occasionally, you can see this repentance—this desire to be something better.  I think only God can bring that redemption. 

Dennis:  As you were talking there, I was thinking, “Undoubtedly as you ventured out around the world and you have seen evil and you have confronted it in a loving way—I mean, swift and forthright—punishing evil.  As you come back to America and see the American church and American Christianity, we have a pretty soft view of love, don’t we?” 

You are talking about confronting a husband who is abusing his wife.  Some of us maybe know of someone who is doing that; and you are saying, “We need to step in there; and we need, if necessary, to call the police and protect that woman.”

Gary:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.   I think fundamentally we are pain-adverse, right?  We want to avoid things that are uncomfortable.  A world full of violence and abuse becomes uncomfortable pretty quickly—so we want to stay away from it.  In some ways, I have to honestly say, that the understanding Christian love has then provided a little escape route away from confrontation with evil.  That is a failure of love for the victim as well because if I am unwilling to confront—I am unwilling to engage the uncomfortable—I am doing that at the price of the person who has no voice, who is the victim of abuse. 

We are seeing, in some of the communities where we work overseas, that there has been a confusion—instead of dealing with sexual violence especially or abuse of children—in churches and in communities there has been, “Oh, well.  Let’s just forgive.  Let’s forget and move on.”  If you look at the Scripture, that is not God’s attitude nor is it the pathway toward true redemption and repentance. 

Bob:  You can’t just cover it over.  You have to go to the root of the cancer.  You know, as you are describing this, I have to confess I think to myself, “In some of these cultures, this oppression and evil has been going on for so long.”  You stop and you think, “That is just who they are.” 

In fact, some anthropologists would say, “To interfere is almost to do injustice.  That is their culture; leave it alone.”  But the message we embrace is a message that says, “No.  There is no culture that is so consumed by evil that they cannot be liberated.”

Gary:  Right.  It is some sort of weird racism or cultural superiority that says, “You know, in my culture and in my race or ethnic group, we are going to keep children safe from violence, and abuse, and slavery; but not in another culture.  That doesn’t make sense.” 

In addition, in each one of these countries, these cultures have already taken the step of making these things illegal.  You are not bringing any foreign standard of morality.  These countries have already said, “Slavery is illegal.  Sex trafficking is illegal.  Raping and abusing children, or throwing people in prison, or stealing a widow’s land.  If not done with proper procedures, these things are illegal.” 

I think those responses are, again, another escape route from actually just confronting the battle that needs to take place of actually bringing justice for those who are victims of violence.      

Dennis:  Back to Christ’s words in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you religious fanatics who ignore justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”  I think the application for every one of us—I really appreciate you, Gary, because I don’t think I ever really had a meaningful discussion around the theme of injustice other than with some of my African-American friends. 

I have been removed from it.  I have not experienced it where I grew up—a small town.  There wasn’t much injustice there; but what you are bringing to light and putting before us:  “The responsibility of the believer to reflect the goodness of God by engaging evil.”  Moms and dads who are raising children:  “We have got to take them near the problem.  Let them see it.”

International Justice Mission has all kinds of ways that can occur through a church and through individual families.  I encourage folks to—if they don’t have a copy of Gary’s book, Good News About Injustice, which is now, I think, celebrating its tenth anniversary.  It is a classic.  You really ought to spend some time talking with your children about injustice, but not just talking—doing something about it. 

Bob:  I was thinking about the devotion guide that your wife Barbara wrote on the subject of courage, which a lot of our listeners have already gotten a copy of that they are using for family devotions.  To have a copy of that devotional, along with The Good News About Injustice, I think it is a great match. 

It calls us to a courageous response to the reality of what is going on in our world.  Not everybody is going to be called to go, but I always think about what John Piper said about missions.  He said, “There are three responses to missions in the church.  One is:  “To go.”  The second is:  “To send.”  The third is:  “To disobey.”  The reality is:  This is something we need to figure out, “How can we be involved as individual Christians in the issue of injustice in our world?” 

If you go to our website, there is information there about Gary’s book, The Good News About Injustice.  There is also information about the devotional that Barbara Rainey has written called Growing Together in Courage

You can order from us online or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  That is 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”  Again, the website is  The books we are talking about:  The Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen and Barbara Rainey’s devotional for families called Growing Together in Courage

Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States.  As a way to honor those who have served or are serving in our Armed Forces, our team came across a small book called The Greatest Soldier Who Ever Lived.  It is an allegory based on a true story of a young man who heard of his grandfather’s involvement in D-Day, storming the beaches at Normandy, and about the spiritual impact hearing about that account had on his life. 

Today and tomorrow, we are making copies of this book available to anyone who calls to request a copy.  This may be something that you would like to give as a gift to someone who is serving or someone who has served in the military, or it might be a story that you might want to read together as a family.  You can call to request a copy of the book The Greatest Soldier Who Ever Lived.  We are making these books available one per caller—one per family. 

If you have never gotten in touch with us here at FamilyLife to let us know that you are listening to this program on your local station, here is a great opportunity to either call

1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for a copy of the book, The Greatest Soldier Who Ever Lived, or go online at and request a copy of the book. 

Again, one per family—one per household.  We are happy to send it out to you.  Whether you give it as a gift or keep it for your family, we hope that it is a valuable resource that will provide spiritual encouragement for those who have opportunity to read it.  Again, go online at to request a copy of the book or call

1-800-FLTODAY.  We are happy to send it out to you. 

Let me encourage you to be back with us tomorrow.  Gary Haugen is going to be with us again.  We are going to continue to talk about the reality of injustice in our world and how we ought to respond as followers of Christ.  I hope you can be here for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey.   I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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