Human beings are smart, yet wisdom is scarcer than gold. I remember as a kid being fully persuaded that my parents and siblings were aliens and that I had accidentally been dropped off on the wrong planet. To dissuade my mother from attempting any “parental guidance”, I made a large poster of Proverbs 27:15,16 and stuck it on my wall where it could not be ignored upon entering the room: “A nagging wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm. Stopping her is like trying to stop the wind. It’s like trying to grab olive oil with your hand.”
Now I can tell you in hindsight that this was not necessarily a wise decision. In the process, I learned a valuable lesson. In life, you can do as you please, but you cannot choose your consequences. My mother is what could be described as a ferociously combative Irish woman. I learned that any direct confrontation with her is ill-advised. Again, being too smart for my own good, I took to collecting several snakes as pets and kept these in my room. My calculation went like this: If I cannot convince her to stay out, maybe fear would do the trick. Although this had the desired effect, it set in motion a series of tit-for-tat retributions involving additional chores. With one minor, and one not-so-minor snakebite, I finally got the point. Don’t mess with Mamma.
Today, many decades later, with children and grandchildren of my own, I cannot help but see this pattern repeat itself. Often, I mutter a silent prayer under my breath: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1). In these words, I hear the echo of a Father’s plea to his children. It is the call to surrender our own understanding and be transformed into the image and likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29; 12:2). It is in the spirit of such transformation that I would like to offer you a gift. If you find any wisdom in these words, won’t you keep them in your heart, consider them in your daily thoughts, and find a way to express them to a hurting world?
• Trying to preserve what you have decided to be the truth does not lead to spiritual growth. It is not a sign of maturity or strong faith. Like trying to hoard manna in the desert, it will cause dis-ease, corruption and strife. Spiritual transformation and growth require change, and change will often break or demand some adjustment to your most precious beliefs.
• Abandoning the traditions and guidance of generations that came before because you think it is outdated, irrelevant, or legalistic does not make you right, superior, or intelligent. Respect and honour will serve your children and theirs to come.
• Uniformity and agreement are not required for Oneness. Friendship and love will guide those who may differ in thought into the presence of God rejoicing.
In these three statements, you will find an underlying almost paradoxical tension. It goes something like this: hanging onto the past is a dead-end, but abandoning everything valuable to chase after whatever seems new, will invite deception. We are required to embrace change, but when confronted with change, we all experience it differently. From time to time, we may disagree, even about the nature and content of scripture. But if we love and cherish one another God himself will be present among us and keep us in harmony.
When expressed in such colloquial language, we can now make practical application in the form of some piercing questions: In defending my evangelical roots and doctrinal presuppositions, have I possibly become an angry crusader, turning the sacred scriptures into bullets of self-righteous rage? Do I now have the right to ridicule, correct and act most ungracious to those who do not see what I see? These are real-life challenges. We as Kingdom Ambassadors are called to consider them carefully.
As the Lifechangers family, Father appears to be guiding us back to the simplicity and enduring themes of love, friendship, unsolicited kindness and fellowship. They have emerged as an effective antidote to the onslaught of outrage that now governs the words and actions of many. It is now more important than ever to bear with one another, forgive quickly, prefer one another, and walk in the Spirit.
May the Lord guide us each as we walk this journey!
Pieter Van Niekerk
Lifechangers’ Board Chairman
Pretoria, South Africa