I won’t try to spin this to show how God’s providence shines through it. Christ will ultimately be all in all, but right now, we are at a nadir and feeling very discouraged.
One of our workers and a very faithful member of the Nakaale congregation here has been having some marital problems described by him to me as “quarreling,” but evidently has included some abuse (his wife, apparently, has a habit of biting him). I learned today that he has decided to take another wife as a result (the details and purpose of this move were not explained to me). I learned that he confessed this to Dave as well, not wanting to keep it from him and thereby deceive him. He explained to Dave that he knows it is sinful and is even fearful that he will be judged for it. Today, as I talked to him, he had become convinced that God will forgive him and that he can continue as a Christian.
He has thrown out such a difficult knot of responses that it is confusing to even untangle the complex of emotions. The honesty, the desire to make his decision known, and his desire to repent, and, above all, the earnestness he showed in wanting to continue to live a Christian life were in some sense an overwhelming affirmation of the work of the Spirit. But they come up against the wall of his blatant and willful sin. So the lingering question (that will be decided, ultimately, by the pastors; I am here just speculating) is how should the church treat this event? Is it so offensive that he should be excommunicated? Was it a moment of weakness wherein he acquiesced to the pressure of cultural norms and now desires to repent—and therefore should be forgiven? Do we, as Christians, continue to treat him as a brother? As an outsider? As apostate?
The issue is complicated further by the likelihood that there are others in the congregation who have done the same but have not come forth. To judge this man who has at the least been honest in his offense only encourages the rest of the community to obscure their lives further from the Mission and causes us to lose credibility as so many live in open sin within the confines of the village while we remain in the dark.
It was such a terrific blow to us to see this one who had been so faithful fall in such a spectacular way. The emotional drain of the day was such that at dinner we laughed and played games and did not even bring the subject up, and I wonder where the balance lies for us as Christians between joy in our salvation and in the manifold promises of God, and sobriety as we look at the sin-cursed world perishing around us.
As always, we eagerly await the day when God’s kingdom will be manifest in this place, and we work with that in mind, but we sometimes feel, here, that the promises of God are very far away.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
– Isaiah 55:10-11