Daily Devotions: The Tables Have Been Turned

From He Walks Among Us by Richard and Reneè Stearns

The Tables Have Been Turned

“Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh. –Luke 6:20-21

walksOn the wall of my office is a picture of a little boy: Tchafule is from Mozambique, and in my photo he is walking through the bush with a pointed stick. Not as easy to see is that Tchafule is also carrying home dinner.

When he was eight years old, Tchafule’s father died, and Tchafule became the man of the household. He was responsible for providing dinner for his mother and three siblings, and that was usually the family’s only meal of the day. But there were no chickens pecking the ground for wayward kernels of corn, no cattle grazing in a nearby field, no catfish awaiting a fishhook in a stream near his home. So Tchafule traipsed around the countryside near his village hunting. He carried a sharpened stick in his hand, ready to spear the first rat he saw. Rat meat was the family’s mainstay. Tchafule’s shocking poverty was the senseless kind, the stupid kind. It was the extreme, heartbreaking poverty that need not exist.

After more than a decade of meeting the poorest of the poor, I have no easy explanation for the paradox of God’s love on the one hand and such poverty and extreme human suffering on the other. I can offer no trite sayings to rationalize the contradiction away. I feel tension as I hold the Tchafules of this world in one hand and the loving God I know in the other. But when I wrestle with this conflict, I am always taken back to Jesus – God in human form – who, mysteriously, was willing to suffer alongside us. It is this same Jesus who invites the Tchafules of this world – the poor, the hungry, the meek, those who mourn – into His Father’s heavenly kingdom.

Jesus’ profound declaration turned the ancient world on its head. His statement was the great equalizer that reset the world’s scales of value, worth, and significance. No longer would the powerful, the highborn, the wealthy, and the well-connected be lifted up while the poor and broken were pushed down. Jesus’ teaching, this “turning of tables” has profoundly influenced every human rights movement in the last two thousand years – from the Magna Carta to the American Revolution to the abolition of slavery, civil rights, and the end of apartheid. Jesus changed the course of history when he invited Tchafule and others like him to sit at the head table at the banquet of the King.

Now a few years later, Tchafule and his family are in a better place. We were able to help his entire community in basic ways. There is a water well nearby as well as goats and chickens for milk and food. Tchafule and his sisters now go to school. I still can’t explain the mystery of human suffering, but I know that Jesus declared Tchafule precious beyond measure and then went to the cross to die for him. And because I love Jesus, I must surely love Tchafule too. It’s that simple.

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