The Fourth ‘R’

I must apologise for missing last week’s Friday frolic. All good intentions went overboard when my house took a very close lightning strike the previous night, bringing a mild degree of havoc to various electrical components: electric gates, telephone, outside lights.

I had thought I could get my piece written before my scheduled departure for Maputo at 11 am. Not a hope! As my friend Francois says, I always think I can buy time.

It was good to be with old friends, on a mission, and for me being on a familiar road to the land that I associate with healing and peace, Mozambique. It is two years since I was last there, and it was exciting seeing the sights I love so much, the hectic pavement markets, the crazy drivers, the hustle and bustle of a large African city. Maputo has a distinct character, and I love its zaniness.

The sprawl that is Maputo, with downtown visible on the skyline
The sprawl that is Maputo, with downtown visible on the skyline

In between catching up on each other’s news, our conversation ranged over a number of issues, from our expectations for the weekend, to the weather and at some stage turned to the leaders of various countries, our own included. We are all concerned at the level of corruption, the seeming lack of care for those less privileged, and the impact of this on all our lives. To be honest I don’t think there is a leader in the world who is totally above board – the way the world is structured, the power wielded by business and banks makes it almost impossible.

But then our team leader reminded us that the reason we pray for those in authority, according to Paul’s letter to Timothy (1Tim 2:2) is that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives, not that our leaders be miraculously ‘changed’ or replaced. Food for thought.

As I digested this, I realised that I have a lot to be thankful for, not least being that I do not run the risk of being beheaded if I were to confess my faith, as is happening to many of my Christian brothers and sisters.

When I first went to school a number of decades ago, it was all about the three r’s: reading, writing, ‘rithmatic. Today the three r’s that dominate are race, religion, and I tack onto that responsibility, because I just think that in so many instances the loudest proponents of the first two are the most reluctant to take responsibility for their own actions. Everything they do, no matter how it can be justified, frequently goes against the grain, and often the law. It is all about domination and power. “I want things my way!”

None of this is new. Tribes have sought to dominate others, the more powerful abusing the weaker, and in some cases obliterating them from the face of the earth since time began. Colonisation was not invented in the last couple of centuries. Slavery, too, has been around from long before the west began harvesting Africans, The same goes for religious intolerance – war after war fought in the name of some deity or other, some creed, some political conviction determined to rule the world.

Micah 3:11, written about 700 years before Christ, or nearly three centuries ago, states:

Her heads judge for a bribe

Her priests teach for pay

And her prophets divine for money.

Yet they lean on the Lord, and say,

“Is not the Lord among us?

No harm can come upon us.”


Sound familiar?

I don’t condone bigotry, racism, intolerance, or misogyny in any form, but I do question how these ills are being dealt with. Destroying universities, killing students in incomprehensible campus shootings, pillage, kidnapping innocent girls, destroying works of art are all senseless and do nothing to resolve any of the issues that concern almost all of us.

God’s heart is always about His children, and how the actions of adults will impact on the children. My generation didn’t do a great job, but neither did their parents, or their governments. But surely the lesson we should take forward is to make a better world for our children. If we are unable to look back into history, and learn the lessons of the past, how do we create a better future.

Solomon, writing in the full gamut of his wisdom in Ecclesiastes says:

That which has been is what will be

That which is done is what will be done

And there is nothing new under the sun.

Sadly, violence begets violence, hatred demands a partner, bigotry seeks to control no matter the cost.

But there has to be a better way, if for no reason other than to ensure an environment conducive to the development for our children. That is, and always has been, the heart of the God of Abraham. Throughout the scriptures, He talks about the consequences for the children, what will befall them if we do not take responsibility for our actions today.

This is the way of love. Perfect love. Love that does not seek to control, or to destroy. Sacrificial love that conquers all, that is prepared to lose its head in order to save a child.

My father taught me that the only place you see the colour of a person is in their eyes. And there are only two colours: good or bad. My faith teaches me there is a God whose desire is for all men to have fellowship with Him, regardless of colour, tribe or nationality. But He will never force this communion. He simply holds out his scarred hands, and says “Come to Me.” If you refuse, that’s okay, He will wait as long as it takes for you to answer. If you should refuse to the end, He will mourn for you, as a Father for His child.

That is the fourth R – it stands for redemption.

The spire of the cathedral in Maputo lifts the cross high above the city

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