Justice Awakening: a book review

Good books don’t always make you feel good. When an author takes an honest look at some real-life problems which enables you to see the world differently, you appreciate their book and their insights; yet the topic may turn your stomach and cause your heart to ache. This is how I felt reading Justice Awakening by Eddie Byun. Byun examines the very real and heart-rending topic of human trafficking. He is hopeful that the church can combat these evils, but this is not the ‘feel-good book of the year.’ It is one of the best books I’ve read lately on the topic of injustice.

Byun is the pastor of Onnuri English Ministry in Seoul, South Korea. Each year, his congregation presses into a theme which God gives them in prayer. Their theme for 2011 was “Freedom.” but in late 2010 when they chose their theme, Byun was unaware of the significance. As he began to explore “Freedom,” he was given David Batstone’s Not For Sale, a book which describes human-trafficking and the modern slave trade. That set Byun on a trajectory (he is now the founding director of Not For Sale Korea). Justice Awakening shares the insights that Byun has gained as he  and his church has worked to combat Human-Trafficking. He also gives practical advice and encouragement for churches which want to get involved in the struggle for human freedom.

This is a short book, the main text of the book is only five chapters long. The first chapter talks about God’s heart for Justice as described in the Bible. Chapter two discusses the continuing existence of Injustice between the cross and the final judgment. Chapter three looks at the modern day slave trade, and the nature of human trafficking around the globe. Byun especially focuses on statistics and stories about Korea (his context) and the United States (where this book was published). Chapter four and five layout the case for the church’s involvement in combating the evils of human  trafficking. In addition to these chapters, there are three appendices: Appendix A lists resources on Freedom and Justice, Appendix B is a sample sermon on human trafficking, and Appendix C is a case study which looks more in-depth at human trafficking in Korea.

Byun declares that the fight against injustice is part of the Church’s mission in the world. While the problem of human trafficking is extensive and ugly, Byun remains hopeful that as the church stands against it, real freedom is possible for victims and traffickers. One of the things I really appreciated was the place of privilege that Byun gives to prayer. He is not content to just attack modern slavery as a social issue, but as spiritual oppression. He has several helpful suggestions on how to pray through the issue (111-7). On the practical side, he has a number of suggestions for getting the church involved. These range from setting aside a “Freedom Sunday” preaching and organizing study groups to look deeper at the issue, and combating injustice in the community through various church ministries. There are lots of ways that people can get involved, and Byun points to creative ways for people to engage the issue.

I recommend this book, even if it evokes anger and deep sadness. Human trafficking is a global problem, but it isn’t something ‘out there.’ Very likely its effects are felt in the community where you live. Prostitution rings, migrant workers, sweatshops  are all part of human trafficking. It is impossible to look at the issues and not be heartbroken for ‘the least of these. Come Lord Jesus. I give this book five stars.

I received this book from IVP in exchange for my honest review.


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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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