Do You Look the Other Way?
By Austin Boyles
The first time I interacted with a man trying to purchase sex, my voice literally shook. There is something intimidating about being on the phone with a guy who’s trying to solicit prostitution, especially the first time. I was in the basement of a building off East Lancaster in Fort Worth, Texas, with a handful of other guys, answering phone calls from men who were trying to set up a meeting to buy a woman for sex. Instead, they got one of us; we did our best to discourage their activities, pleading with them to stop buying God’s children. The phones barely stopped ringing the entire two hours we were there.
I had spent the majority of my life vaguely aware of the world’s brokenness. I knew things like war and poverty were bad, but they existed outside of my bubble and were far from my mind. Moreover, I had been exposed to pornography at a young age and struggled with it for years. Although I have come to hate porn with a deep passion, I didn’t always feel this way. Porn has become so ubiquitous that it is just accepted as something you do, and teens sometimes even bond over discussing it. I was saturated in this world, living blissfully ignorant of the damage I was doing and brokenness that surrounded me.
“I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I couldn’t do nothing.”
This type of life led to my world being rocked in 2016 when I took a course at TCU (Texas Christian University) on human trafficking, and my eyes were opened to real injustice for the first time. I had no idea that women and children were being trafficked in my city. My transformative experience would continue the following year when I was saved. Over the course of about six months, God had shown me real brokenness and sin and brought me to Himself. I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I couldn’t do nothing. Abolitionist William Wilberforce famously once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” For some reason, the Lord had burdened my heart with this knowledge of injustice, and I certainly couldn’t choose to look the other way.
During that human trafficking course, I had been introduced to The Net and their work in Fort Worth addressing poverty and sex trafficking. I’d learned that they did work to push back against the men in the city who purchase sex, and I wanted to get involved. Unfortunately, I was on the baseball team at TCU at the time and barely had any free time with practice and games on top of normal schoolwork and college responsibilities. I couldn’t even attend The Net’s training, much less get involved. However, I knew that I’d go as soon as I could. God had given me a passion to help those who are vulnerable, weak, or voiceless, and I would have to fight to make it a priority in my life.
I was able to get involved in the Fall of 2017, and that first phone call I answered turned out to be one of many. It’s been challenging to stay consistently involved – there are a million things tugging at my schedule on a daily basis, but I firmly believe that you make time for what you truly care about. God truly cares about the vulnerable and disenfranchised in our community, so we, as the Body of Christ, should too.
“Not only can I live in freedom having been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, but I can also treat the men who are purchasing sex or trapped in pornography addiction with compassion.”
What is particularly interesting to consider is how my motivation for doing this type of work has changed over the last two years. Initially, I was primarily driven by shame. I had begun to recognize how much I contributed to the sexual brokenness of both myself and the world through my pornography use, and I wanted to try to make up for that by doing good. I felt like there was a massive debt I had built up that I needed to repay, piece by piece. I had a tendency to view the men who I talked with on the phone with contempt and self-righteousness, as though I was better than them. Functionally, I didn’t believe that Jesus had actually done enough on the cross, and I felt as though I had some more work to do to fix my brokenness. Gently, lovingly, the Holy Spirit has reminded me that the only thing keeping me from being that man trying to purchase sex was the grace of God. Slowly, I’ve begun to not just know, but believe that Jesus truly paid for all of my sin at the cross. Not only can I live in freedom having been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, but I can also treat the men who are purchasing sex or trapped in pornography addiction with compassion.
I still sometimes find myself uncomfortable entering into these spaces, and I’ll periodically wonder what life would be like if I pretended that I didn’t know about these issues. Then I remember God’s heart for the poor and the vulnerable, and I think of all the vulnerable women in Fort Worth and beyond who need men and women to stand up for them, to be their voice. I remember how much joy it brings me to know that the small group of guys I volunteer with is being used by God to make a difference in people’s lives. God didn’t burden my heart with these issues to simply know that they exist, but to actually do something about it. There are far too many women being exploited right here in our backyard for us to stand by and pretend that we don’t know. So, let’s get up and do something about it.