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And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil… 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Throughout our time in Kenya we are repeatedly reminded of all the depths of evil and the snares that capture the neighborhood, the people we know and love. Surely we all need only to watch our evening news to see the brokenness in our own back yard and evil across the globe. Yet, on the margins, at the fringes of this society there is an incomprehensible extreme battle with blatant evil that has a freedom to roam. We feel the dark spiritual forces of witchcraft that are pervasive in all African sectors but we also see a senseless cruelty and greed that seems to be more overt in the midst of the extreme socioeconomic disparity in Kenya. Amongst the economically poor we witness the unforgiving struggle of the “survival of the fittest”. And amongst the wealthy we see the blind denial that poverty is something we are all to consciously address or making statements such as “poverty is a choice” in an effort to placate their own corruption.
At the root, there are two spiritual issues that we confront on a daily basis. First, the ancestral worship and tribal witchcraft has ensnared the majority of people. It is said that Kenya is around 80% Christianized but with the high prevalence of this type of darkness, we struggle to believe such statistics and that this country is anywhere close to being reached. In this context defining yourself as Christian means only that you are not Muslim. But with the rituals so widely practiced, we would also question the faith and understanding of those within “the church”.
Syncretism, the amalgamation of different religions and beliefs, is highly prevalent. It completely distorts ones understanding of grace and the true gift of Jesus Christ. At the very least it stifles ones Christian walk and creates a poverty of faith. On the other end, it pulls a soul far from any true understanding of Jesus and makes Christianity only another form of appeasement of the gods.
This leads to the second issue, grace. There is a lack of understanding of God’s grace. Generally, religion is about appeasing god(s). Grace is a foreign concept to reach when you’ve only known your own works and attempts to get to God. So, we go back to Jesus and the whole Story of scripture to understand grace. It can be a daunting task, even within a “reached” Christian society who know the stories of the Bible but yet miss the message within.
Interestingly, 2 Corinthians 13:14 know as “The Grace”, is commonly recited in all Christian circles in Kenya, possibly throughout Africa. It is an encouraging statement of grace founded in the trinity, a dissection of our Christian faith. Sadly, reciting this scripture has become more of a ritual, a prayerful appeasement of God, stuck in the Old Testament, negating the true understanding of Jesus, Paul’s intent and our celebration of salvation as believers. Pastors and laymen daily recite the verse out of habit, forgetting or not even knowing what God’s grace truly is. So, we go back to the beginning and teach grace, patiently enduring evil.
Our prayer is that God would grant repentance and that the masses throughout, in and out of “the church”, would understand His loving grace, a life in Jesus, escaping the evil snare of the devil.
So what does this mean for all of us? In a sense, we are all still trying to understand, fully grasp grace and apply it to our own lives. I believe it is a challenge for all of us because his act of mercy is so unthinkable. How often do we catch ourselves still working, trying to gain God’s favor even after Jesus already claimed, “It is finished”? Certainly this applies to people in every context.
Here is how it applies to us. As God reveals himself to us, He calls us to and we grow with a desire to proclaim his goodness allowing him to perhaps grant repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth. He involves us in the process. Paul gave us some guidelines - must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. - this is how we are to be, what we are to do.
We write and reflect on these thoughts for a couple reasons. First, that you would pray fervently for us as we strive to abide in this context as the Lord’s servants here in Africa. Second, that you would sacrificially give of yourself, financially, serving, encouraging work such a this, in your neighborhood and around the world. You can partner with us to enable the work here to grow and move forward (see donate link on the right) . Third, that you would be persuaded to regularly consider how God’s grace applies to your life in defeating the gods in your life and fourth, that you would be ready to proclaim it!
God may not be asking you to physically move to a different country to do this but He certainly moves all of our hearts, through the revealing of his grace, to be and do what 2 Timothy 2:21 is saying of the Lord’s servant, “he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”