What is best for Nathan?

“What is best for my kids?”

I feel this every time I wake up and look in the cot and Nathan smiles at me.

But what is best for Nathan?

Now firstly let me confess… I live in a large house, in a cul-de-sac, 2 minutes walk from a beautiful beach, in one of the safest areas of Cape Town (we often don’t lock our car or front door until late at night), good schools nearby and all the shops within easy walking distance.

To bring my son up here – this has got to be the best for him right?

It would definitely be very good… but is it the best?  And the best according to who?  To me?  Society? God?

I must confess that whilst living where we do would be a very good thing for Nathan, I do not think it would be the best.

If Nathan grows up here he will inherit the same middle-class, individualistic, materialistic, mono-cultural Christianity that is so prevalent in the area.  The kind of Christianity that has much to say about a select group of sins but ignores greed, materialism, self-sacrifice, consumerism, lack of racial reconciliation, lack of hospitality, neglect of the poor, retail therapy, etc  The kind of Christianity that often looks very much like the surrounding world (just without the drinking, sex and bad language!).

What kind of Christian community do I want Nathan to grow up in?  When he has to decide for himself if he will continue to follow Christ, what context will his decision be made from?

I picture a Christian community that shares life together, eating together, praying together (not the bit tacked on the end of the home group – really praying!), inviting the poor and vulnerable into our community, a rich multi-cultural heritage (like Ephesians 2 seems to suggest is normal), a discipleship more concerned with self-sacrifice and service than self-satisfaction and “me-time”.  A community that practices hospitality, gets messy with broken people in our homes (not sanitised offices at “the church”).  A community that grapples with the Scriptures, daily, weekly, together, individually.

A community that asks hard questions about the level of our discipleship.  I am convinced that most white, middle-class Christians (my tribe) in South Africa have a superficial concept of discipleship and a not-so secret love affair with money and prestige.  Why do we not even blink at the expense of the cars in the parking lot at my church every week?  When last have you heard anyone even question whether it is right for a Christian to own a BMW? Whatever the answer those are the messy, uncomfortable questions we don’t ask anymore?

I want Nathan to be a part of a Christian community that feels deeply the HIV-AIDS pandemic that is breaking apart our country, if we don’t feel this it is because our sanitised suburban church keeps us safe from the horror.  I want Nathan to grow up in a church where the fact that fellow Christians are going to bed hungry and cold in his very city bothers him.  I want Nathan to grow up in a church community where the fact that the prosperity gospel is wrecking havoc among poor non-white people in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and the Cape Flats causes weeping and crying out to God to raise up workers…

I want Nathan to grow up in a church that does not only read, study, meditate and wrestle with the Bible but a community that lives, breathes and experiences daily what it means to be on a mission with God.  What it means to daily take up our cross, hate his own life, serve the least among us, be hated on account of Jesus, care for the orphans and widows…

I want Nathan to grow up in a community where money is not our security, where generosity is practised, where people give up their things in order to bless others, like their books (!), their car, their clothes, their personal space, their me-time, their food, their money.  Where people really believe Paul when he says that godliness with contentment is great gain!

I want Nathan to grow up in a Christian community where the gospel call is a big ask.  To follow Jesus is to lay down your whole life, it is not easy, it is not comfortable, it is not “the good life”…

… but it is the best life…

… and that takes faith to believe!

And that is why we have to get out of here!  Please pray for us as we seriously consider where it is that God is calling us.

Also of interest may be:

The Unholy Trinity of Suburbia (HT: Stephen Murray)

What is best for your kids

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~ by John on April 2, 2009.

3 Responses to “What is best for Nathan?”

  1. Hi John. Yes, i used to live in Kenilworth in a small flat with very little ,,, married for 7 years, working at St James when i asked if i could rather spend my time in Khayelitsha helping to plant a church. This was in 1990 and things were tense.
    I would spend hot days sitting on the sand or in a shack with no windows sharing my life and the good news, having Lemon Twist amazingly appear out of thin air or chewing on tough braaied sheep as i experienced sacraficial hospitality. I watched kids chewing on chicken feet as teething rings as they sat near polluted water with snot runnining into their mouths and dogs snapping at them for survival. I saw a sense of desperate community life as neighbours worked together to rebuild a burned out shack.

    Then i would come back to suburbia, perhaps get a nod from a neighbour out of politeness, walk into my carpeted flat switch on the TV, walk to my baby boy’s room where he was giggling happily as he played with a clean fluffy toy dog. His own room, larger than an entire shack, clean, cute paintings on the walls and colourful curtains to stimulate his senses. How fortunate he was … how protected ,,, how could i be in such a blessed situation … why? I later discovered it was so i could let that blessing overflow, and in so doing become human again. We need the poor so we can unlearn selfishness and be carers and keepers of God’s world now broken and hurting and in need of renewed people in Christ.

    Then i would drive down to church that night, dressed in clerical garb and nervously announce next weeks events as well as I could under the TV spotlights to an audience of 1200 people eager to know what was planned for them. Exciting stuff! Glad to belong to this church!Then some polished music and a neat sermon in a motionless, childless environment so that the message could be clearly heard and taken in. Perfect! And it was good….
    Synical? I believe I must be at times, especially when it is me i am being critical about!
    That’s why we could do none other than spend time with our kids from a young age amongst the poor, amongst the real poulation in our land on farms or across our borders, where there are so many problems socially, where community is not gospel community but sinful community, where people live on top of one another and every little girl is damaged and every boy has a role model in prison or in a gang, where every mother fights to keep body and soul together and most men are drunk, where fathers are also grandfathers to the same child, and where a glass bottle and a ball are only items a child owns and the games are simple.

    I think it’s a constant battle. And i think the church you want is the one we all need. Be thankful and teach him to enjoy all things because God gives them to enjoy. Show him that you don’t trust in wealth 😉 but trust in God. But show him sacrafice and let him see you in the messy church where people are family called to love each other as Christ loves him.

    Must go now and get my children away from their computers and help their mom in the kitchen. And me too for that matter
    Blessings to the Scheepers
    #S this was typed quickly on my phone so forgive the muddle of thoughts and bad spelling and gram.

  2. Hey Colin,

    One point you make that perhaps is worth thinking some more about. You said that we must teach him to enjoy all things as God’s gifts but yet not trust in wealth, be generous and sacrifice. The reason for this post is that I just find that so hard to do living in middle-class suburbia where the idol of wealth and security in wealth and comfort is seldom questioned, but accepted. And I do not think I am strong enough to rise above this idolatory…

    We can teach our kids things with our words but it is our lives and the lives of our Christian community that often speak louder of priviledge and comfort?

  3. […] And here are some thoughts on my dreams for my kids – PS – we have actually begun to make some of the changes I dream about in this post […]

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