The Rwandan Adventure Continues – Day Six

The Rwandan Adventure Continues – Day Six

Today was the last day of the Pastors Conference. It was a joy. The conversation was particularly engaging. I taught “TRANSFORMED” beginning with a thorough exposition of 2 Corinthians 3.

We looked at the ministry of the law, its glorious ministry which brings us what? Wait for it. Death! Any reasonably self-aware person reads/hears the law and despairs as he knows there is no hope for himself. Like the Apostle Paul he can only draw one conclusion, “Wretched man that I am.”

Then we looked at the ministry of the Spirit which brings life, freedom and transformation. Instantly, even as the Rwandans read, the lights went on, the bells went off. The three part series came together. God is happy to meet us where we are but He is not satisfied to leave us there. He, by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, will help us to achieve the law which would otherwise destroy us. God was cheered. There was laughter and joy when the pieces came together.

We moved on to application. Here is where it became sticky and exciting. We so easily revert to the law. In African nations pastors must regularly navigate incorporating a polygamist, who has come to faith in Christ, into the life of the church. It is so easy to simplify what must be done. We create church rules. The polygamist must be the husband of one wife. So he has to abandon the others. And the children of the other wives cannot be baptized because they are not part of the marriage covenant. This is the teaching of the church in a neighboring country.

I said so if a man comes to faith we celebrate that but punish all wives after number one and their children. I asked under what warrant of Scripture are we as pastors and churches meant to rob women and children of their provision. Mind you the Rwandan clergy were not advocating this position. They wanted to understand how I would apply grace and law in this situation. I made sure I understood. “So a canon of the church says a man is relieved of providing for and raising his children if he comes to faith so that he can comply with the one wife rule?” “So what about raising children he produced in the knowledge and love of the Lord?”

I said this is a place where the canons are in conflict with the scripture because they don’t contemplate the complexity of the situation. God could not possibly expect women and children to be abandoned to the streets and destitution. And you cannot become the husband of one wife by divorcing the other four. That may comply with the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. If we apply this canon we produce orphans, who seem to be regarded rather highly by God. We would be working against God. We must find a pastoral response that regards all the parties involved. Real life is messy just like it was with the woman at the well.

Another church canon came up. Some churches teach that the church is not to bury the unbaptized. They asked, “What if a child dies at birth?” I said “have a pastor’s heart.” I then recounted a story of blessing and baptizing a still born baby. I called him by name. I said I knew theologically that it did not make much sense. But that did not matter at the moment. I said a woman had just gone through the pain of child birth knowing the baby was dead. I wanted to bring some love and kindness and mercy to this grieving family. So I took the baby into my arms and baptized him. I said this baby is in the Lord’s hands. This was the first step in moving beyond a tragedy for these tender souls. It was not time to check the regs.

I closed saying something like this: It the time of Jesus, people were burdened with RULES that did not matter and guilt from transgressing good and holy LAWS which did matter and good and holy laws they could not keep perfectly. God’s response was to love. He freed them from religion declaring in Jesus that faith was a matter of the heart and emancipated them from sin and death through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. He then sent the Holy Spirit to transform us and make us more like the only who keeps the law. All this is to say, he loved people, and showered compassion and grace upon his people, every last one of them, knowing full well they had not and could not keep the law. People matter to God. They should matter no less to us. When in doubt, show mercy, extend grace. He did! And thank God! For that is how I managed to get into the Kingdom!


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