Thoughts from South Africa

by Hendrik Joubert
Sentry Magazine, December 1999

Convenience or Conviction?

Recently I have spent much time working on helping brethren understand that as Christians we should change. We should study the Bible to find out what it is that God wants us to be.

I have been thinking about some of the things that surfaced among the African brethren. It seems that they follow the Bible as long as it is practically possible. When they suddenly find themselves in a threatening situation, they will revert back to their old customs. Making a living, getting food, is important. They will sacrifice simple principles in order to eat.

Then I thought about us Americans. Are we that different? We are also "practical" in our worship of God. We do it when it comes naturally and easily. But when it involves a "worldly crisis," or an old bad habit, it is a different story. Think about this statement. Obedience does not count when it comes naturally. I have never smoked, and have not been drunk ever. This in spite of the fact that I grew up quite ungodly. There are some things I did that I do not wish to mention, but even as a "sinner" I did not want to smoke or drink, not because of what I thought God says, but because "I" did not like it. I can therefore take no credit, act superior because of that.

The drunk and the smoker finds it difficult to overcome these bad habits. Because they are so hard to overcome, by some, they are often "ignored," or considered to be "grey areas," especially smoking. You do not preach against tobacco in Kentucky? Notice, not only because of people smoking but because of people making a living out of it. In San Francisco, you do not preach against homosexuality? l know this is an obvious violation of God's word, but should our preaching be regional according to the customs of that region?

So, we are not that different from our African brethren. We can preach on their habits, but not ours?

This morning in my discussion with them, I talked about how they would forsake the assembly in order to go make money to get their kids through school. They have to go out to find work. Prostitution becomes an accepted way for "paying," and for earning money. We need to read Matthew 10:34ff and Luke 14:36ff and meditate on them. We need to sacrifice for the kingdom of God. We need to change, to grow, to become different.

The lesson caused discussion. Bongani did a good job in discussing the matter with the brethren. I could follow the conversation in Zulu sufficiently to throw in a comment or two here and there. Then I had to go and apply it to myself ...


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