I’m preparing to visit sub-Saharan Africa next week. Specifically, I’ll be spending time in both Malawi and Mozambique – two of the world’s poorest countries.
Each time I visit these people – I see an amazing power at work.
It’s a power that self-proclaimed atheist Matthew Parris, who himself grew up in Malawi, describes as the “hope” of Africa.
“Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it.”
— Matthew Parris, The Times
Amazingly – this power is also detected by British Prime Minister David Cameron – and he sees it at work amongst Christians who live in the UK.
“From Somerset to Surrey, from Oxford to Devon, churches became refuges, offering shelter and food, congregations raised funds and rallied together, parish priests even canoed through their villages to rescue residents. They proved, yet again, that people’s faith motivates them to do good deeds.”
— David Cameron, British Prime Minister, Easter Message 2014
What is this deeply positive…society building…person valuing power that both of these men observe – one in Britain, the other in Africa?
What is it that I can see as I travel through Africa meeting with church leaders and people of various Christian church denominations?
What is it that is at work in the Christian church I am part of – Kingfisher Church Network in the UK, Africa and India?
An ancient New Testament writer puts it like this:
“let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
— Hebrews 10:22 – 23, NLT
In other words – it really doesn’t matter whether you live in Blantyre, Malawi or Birmingham, UK. When the love of God reaches us and cleanses us inside – big things happen. Why? Because he removes all the guilt that by rights we should labour under in our daily lives.
Guilt for my past mistakes…
Guilt for the deliberate hurtful actions that I have been unleashed on others and myself. …
When God does the outrageously unfair but incredibly generous job of washing us clean – for free – he also…
substitutes hope for our despair –
acceptance for endless competitiveness –
love for intense hatred –
…and the results are big!
This is not a mind change. It’s not an ideology shift.
It starts with the transformation of a human heart.
Matthew Parris again makes this point clearly.
“In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
— Matthew Parris, The Times
When we discover that we are welcomed by God as we are – no pretense, no religiosity – just me in my barest, rawest form. And when I experience his cleansing and his healing in my life – God gives me the will and the desire to serve other people. My heart changes – selfishness gets softened…a drive to give rather than receive begins to flourish and grow.
Here’s the thing – this heart change doesn’t only work in Africa. It also works in Britain too. In fact – it works wherever people decide to reject dead religion.
Whether that religion is found amongst people gathering in a traditionally religious building;
or whether it is found in a rather tired yet shrill, private secular humanist mindset.
When a person lays these down and instead – opens their heart to the transformative love of Jesus Christ. When that happens – heart change isn’t far behind.
David Cameron has pledged himself to protecting and standing up for “Christians and other minorities”. As I listen to his words – I am left with two feelings:
FIRST – when I look at the influence of Christ’s love on human hearts – I am left wondering what hope our fragmented scary world would have WITHOUT true Jesus Christianity – its associated heart change – and its transformative impact on society?
SECOND – my heart goes out to those who mistakenly reject true Jesus Christianity…in spite of the good deeds that true Jesus inspired heart change brings. This Christian life is not intended for a minority. This is actually what humanity is searching for –
it’s what you have been longing for –
what we’ve been built for.