Next month we “challenge the demand” — the market for paid sex that fuels a multimillion (billion?) dollar human trafficking industry. You might be surprised to read this verse in Hosea 4:14 (TNIV): “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes–a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

Writing eight centuries before Christ, the prophet Hosea declares these words from God. He says that a people of understanding need to recognize the complex, societal connections that impact the sex trade, and if we simplistically assign blame, then we are not judging the way God judges.

Did you know that Jesus practiced Hosea’s principle?

A woman was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus (John 8:4).

Some might think this is merely a question about individual sin. The Pharisees tried to frame it as a theological question. They thought they could trap Jesus if he acted in mercy. They knew he was most likely to respond in love and act in relationship.

But think about how that situation reveals the injustice of their society. They only brought the woman . . . even though it is patently impossible for only one person to be caught in the very act of adultery. The Pharisees cast themselves in the role of “defender of God’s law.” In their self-righteousness they didn’t see their own injustice or sin.

Jesus found a way to make them look for it.

He stooped down and found something to do that focused his eyes on the ground. While he waited for the Pharisees to recognize their own sin and slink off, Jesus kept his eyes averted from the woman.

The Pharisees wanted to shame her, to blame her, to condemn her. Shame was a big tactic in that culture. (It’s becoming one in ours too.) They didn’t crucify people unclothed because they thought the fabric would get in the way of the nails. No. Humiliation was part of the punishment.

Jesus acted differently. He defended the woman’s life. Instead of talking about her, He spoke directly to her. He declared her free from judgment and sent her off to rebuild her life differently.

Many anti-trafficking programs have those same goals.

Let’s remember God’s radical statement in Hosea 4:14: “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution . . . ” as well as Jesus’ statement, “ . . . neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus came to set the captives free.