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A new paradigm

The sinful destruction of man is never so great that the transforming power of God cannot overpower it

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

Here are some interesting figures that I will use to give you some indication of the state of our country:

• 15½ hours is the length of time, per day, that we and most of Harare were out of electricity a couple of weeks ago due to the national electrical company's inability to maintain our power generating plant. These are symptoms of Zimbabwe's crumbling infrastructure and lack of development.

• 5 is the normal number of days, per week, that we have power cuts at our home-ranging from just a few hours to 14 hours per day.

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• $900 is the amount owed on an electricity account by a widow assisted by our church's Social Concerns ministry. Her electricity was cut off, but our church helped her pay this bill.

• $6,000 is the amount it would cost to make an average household no longer dependent upon said electrical company, either through solar power and inverters or diesel generators.

• $350,000 is the amount purportedly owed by our president on the electricity bill of his personal dwelling; needless to say, he was not cut off. This from the front page of a national private newspaper.

I give these numbers to share a few snapshots of present-day Zimbabwe. The reality is the country continues to slowly slide into deterioration, despite all the supposed changes and purported steps forward in terms of government unity and economic improvement. Those who are rich and have high positions or own companies are able to live well, but for the vast majority-a growing majority-life continues to be a daily struggle.

There is a growing spirit of lawlessness in the country. And by that I am not referring only to the more extreme forms of lawlessness, the political violence, the murder of opponents and cover-ups in investigations, the theft of farms and businesses, the huge kickbacks in exchange for lucrative contracts, or the theft of millions of dollars of the country's diamond industry. These obvious examples of lawlessness are of great concern, but there is for me a greater concern, a more ubiquitous lawlessness.

Amongst the people of Zimbabwe there is a growing disrespect for law as a principle, and this attitude is evidenced in a multitude of ways. People throw litter from cars, they flagrantly disobey road rules, cross solid lines, and break speed limits. Red lights at intersections go unheeded. The list goes on and on.

What is concerning is that this disrespect for "rightness" is now part of our national psyche, our children are not learning anything different, and the frightening prospect of the indictment in Judges being applied to our land, "Every man did what was right in his own eyes," troubles me regularly.

And yet, foundational to all of life, still "The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad!" We do have hope, and that hope is in Him and His promises.

A friend who works in agricultural development among small-scale farmers traveled to a remote rural area for several days to visit. As he shared with me his experiences, he was close to tears as he spoke of the poaching and slaughter of the local animals, the cutting down of trees, the degradation of the landscape, the denuding of indigenous forests.

And then he shared how he had managed to journey from despair to hope. He had remembered that this world will be made new, this earth is not our final home. The sinful destruction of man will never be so great that the transforming power of God will not overpower it.

He spoke with bright eyes of the new earth and our hope for that. And then he spoke with compassion of the folks who are in ignorance of the gospel, destroying the world that God had made to support them. And I thought of the resurrection of Christ, a paradigm not only for our own bodily resurrection, but also surely, for the resurrection of the creation itself. There is hope to be found in God within a dying world because of the resurrection of Christ.

-John Bell is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe

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