I’ve been home for a few days now, trying to get my head back in my home time zone and trying to process the incredible experiences I had in South Africa. First of all, let me thank those of you who helped make this trip a reality—those who kept us in prayer and those who shared with us financially in the expenses and ministry of this trip. It was awesome in every way. I have posted some photos at Ofoto.com if you want to view them.
On my last Friday in South Africa Phillip and Vicky took me to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. What an awesome experience. This is more than a museum—it actually invites you into the experience of what apartheid felt like for oppressed and oppressor alike and allowed you to experience the triumph of its end and a fresh new hope for a country that faces incredible challenges in transitioning to a democracy that all can participate in equally.
I was struck by a number of things there—how easy it is to justify, even in theological terms, what serves our own self-interest, the oppression on indigenous peoples that European civilization exported to the world, and courage it took for the disenfranchised to stand up at great personal cost and demand liberation for the oppressed. Everyone hails Nelson Mandela as a gift from God to help build a new South African society that includes all races. I am reading his autobiography to understand how this man could have suffered so much and come out with heart for reconciliation and not vengeance. It is great reading
As we drove away from the museum that day I was greatly encouraged by those who put the ideal of freedom above their own personal expedience. Mandela spent 27 of his prime years in prison for treason because he dared to try to overthrow the apartheid regime. Many more were imprisoned, persecuted even killed for challenging the status quo. I was reminded of the many people I’d met in South Africa who have struggled to leave the religious institutions that have become such a part of Christianity to seek a greater life and freedom in the reality of Jesus. Many felt the were alone and one man said leaving the institution he’d been part of for life was like ‘crucifying his mother’. Many of you reading this know what it is to suffer the rejection of family and friends, maybe even mentors to you in the faith because you felt you could no longer fit in with a system of religious obligation that you found lifeless and empty. It is those first few years that are most difficult, and, yes, it can be painful to experience disapproval and judgment by people you care deeply about.
But in the end, it is just disapproval and that is an incredibly small price to pay to find your way into the life of God. No one is putting us in prison. No one is killing us, torturing our children or burning our homes. As people remind me often, “Do you realize they were killing people only 400 years ago for writing the things I write?” Yes I do know.
If people can give up their own self-interest for freedom in this age, how much more can we lay ours down for the freedom that supercedes all other freedoms—life in Christ? I know it may be difficult for a season, but no one I’ve met who has broken free of the system of religious obligation and discovered the life of God beyond it, has had any regrets. The life deeply lived in him is worth any cost or risk in this age. Let us pursue him with firm resolve, laying aside any thing that entangles us and love him more deeply than anything else. Who knows? We may yet suffer again for doing so, but the wealth within easily overrides any pain without!”