Thursday, January 30, 2014

Father to the Township Fatherless

I can still remember my teenage self running down the street, escaping from the clutches of a violent man. I run past my home. Not because the night is so dark that I can’t find my way home.  Not because the violent man’s punch to my face has blinded me.  I run past my home, aiming for my next door neighbour’s house because there is a father in that house, and in my desperate plight the house next door promises more safety and security than my fatherless home…

In hindsight, I believe that the Lord used this and many other experiences of my fatherless childhood to deepen my longing for a father to such an extent that the good news of adoption into the heavenly Father’s family, through Jesus Christ, would be so appealing to me that it would be one of the many strings with which the Lord would draw me to himself.

And I believe that in His sovereignty, God has ordained that many of his elect in the townships experience the sad reality of fatherlessness, so that when they hear the good news of the Fatherhood of God through Jesus Christ, they will be drawn to Him, as the One who can satisfy their longings for fatherly love, security, guidance and provision.

This article is not written to celebrate the scourge of fatherlessness in the townships as a good thing in and of itself, neither is it written to excuse those men who have only the power to make children, but not the patience to mould them.

But I believe that God is in absolute control over everyone and everything and therefore nothing comes to pass unless He ordained it before time began. So this piece is written as a feeble exploration of some of the reasons why God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, ordains fatherlessness for some of his elect.

God often deprives us of our heart’s desires, so that we can come to Him for their fulfillment

Consider Abraham; at 75 years old he was a sonless man with a barren wife, in a time when childlessness was seen as a curse. I can imagine him earnestly praying to his father’s gods, believing that some day they would answer his desperate cries for a son.  But by age 75, he must have given up all hope and reconciled himself to the thought that his name would forever be forgotten. 
This is why when the LORD reveals Himself to him and promises to make him the father of many nations, the words fall on Abraham’s ears like fresh water on parched lips. How can he not find this God appealing and worth following, when He promises to grant him abundantly more than that which he has been longing for his whole life?

In the same way, God sometimes deprives some of his elect the blessing of having good earthly fathers, so that when they hear the gospel of the Fatherhood of God, having experienced the loneliness and helplessness of fatherlessness, it becomes to them like a fountain of water in the desert, and they are irresistibly drawn to Him.

Therefore we must not neglect to proclaim this often forgotten blessing of adoption in our endeavours to present the gospel in the townships.  We must sound the ultimate call to khumbul ‘ekhaya. We must faithfully hold up this facet of the diamond of the gospel in all its lustre and glory, and trust the heavenly Father to make its allure effective to call His fatherless children home.

Having experienced the joy of being delivered from the pain of fatherlessness, will not those who have been adopted into the heavenly Father’s family become more sensitive to the plight of the fatherless in their communities?  Will they not be moved to act out this glorious spiritual adoption by physically adopting those who are orphans among them? Will this not in turn have a positive impact on the social ills which are the result of a lack of good fathers and father figures in the townships?

Finally, will these adopters not be eager to use this earthly adoption as a means to call and point their adopted children and onlookers to the ultimate, eternal, heavenly adoption, which all - both the well-parented and the orphaned - are in desperate need of?

Christ – The Real Power to the People

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Festive Season- Jesus and Township Teenage Pregnancy

It is that time of the year again, when partying, excessive drinking of alcohol and casual sex are at their highest around the world, particularly in the South African townships.

During this time of the year,  the township society at large tends to be indifferent to, or even approve of teenage drunkenness, which easily leads to careless sex and in many cases, pregnancy.  Even some of the strictest of parents tend to loosen their leash around this time of the year, all in the name of a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman
The story of Jesus and the woman of Samaria, found in John 4, is very instructive here.  An exhaustive exposition of this remarkable portion of scripture, though it would be edifying and soul-enrapturing, is beyond the scope of this short piece.  Suffice it to note the following:

The two main characters in this story are different.  They are different not only in the sense that one is female and the other is male, or in that one is a Samaritan and the other a Jew, or even in the sense that one is merely human while the other is the God-Man. The difference which is most instructive for our particular point of discussion is the difference in their sources of satisfaction. 

The Samaritan woman, having had five husbands and living with a man who was not her husband, had demonstrated time and time again that men were her source of satisfaction.  She had been drinking water from the muddy and shallow wells of relationships with men and after every time she had had her fill of one man, she would thirst again, and require another fill.  Hence Jesus gives her this astonishing promise:  “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give [her] will never be thirsty again…”

Jesus, on the other hand, had a totally different source of satisfaction. It was the well of pure, soul-satisfying water.  That is why when “the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat…’ He said to them ‘my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’”  Jesus derived satisfaction from the eternal spring of the glory of God, as demonstrated in His glorious work of reaping souls for harvest.  This satisfaction surpassed even his physical hunger and thirst: He had gone to the well out of physical weariness and thirst for natural water, but after drinking from the from the spring of eternal life, he got up from the well feeling so satiated in his soul that this satisfaction overflowed into his physical body.

What does all of this have to do with the festive season and the rise in township teenage pregnancy?
Well, much like the Samaritan woman, many of our township teenagers are thirsty.  They are drawing water from all kinds of springs.  The spring of the exhilarating thrill of being high and drunk, the spring of popularity among their peers and finding their identity in their social status, the spring of being envied for being the most beautiful and most wanted by the opposite sex, the spring of illicit sexual intercourse. They drink and drink and drink some more from these springs, but no sooner do they lift their heads up from these shallow wells to catch their breath than do they feel thirsty again.

Therefore, the same gospel promise which awoke the Samaritan woman from her drunken stupor, and freed her from her bondage to labouring for that which could not satisfy, is the same promise which needs to be proclaimed to the enslaved teenagers in our townships. Jesus stands up during these great festive days, amidst crowds with cooler boxes packed to capacity and cries out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The same indictment which the Lord pronounced against His people Israel through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah is the same indictment which should be declared to our township teenagers: My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13.

As a soon-to-be father of a girl, these reflections are of particular significance to me. What should be the ultimate basis for my hope and confidence that my daughter will not become one of the statistics of teenage pregnancy?  Should I trust in my ability to be so strict that her fear of me will keep her away from boys, or should I resolve to shower her with so much money and gifts that she will not find any s’khothane appealing to her on account of these things?

No!  My ultimate hope and confidence must rest on the truth that Jesus is able to ravish her soul and thrill her in ways that no Pantsula dancer can ever hope to match.  He can speak to her a language more charming than a love proposal spoken in is’Camto (colloquial talk).

Therefore, the same gospel promise which awoke the Samaritan woman from her drunken stupor, and freed her from her bondage to labouring for that which could not satisfy, is the same promise we must proclaim to our daughters and sisters in our townships, in all its glorious facets so that they may not settle for the cheap cubic zirconias of the world’s fleeting pleasures, and instead aim for nothing less than the Pearl of great price!

Christ, the real power to the people!