Posted by: Veroni Kruger | April 3, 2013

Violence Against Women 4: Violence begins at home …

The saying goes that charity begins at home. Actually, everything begins at home!

Those first six or seven years are absolutely formative in the life of a child. Every individual is responsible for his or her own life. Yet it is a fact that what we perceive and experience in the first few years of our lives is determinative of how we approach the rest of our time in this world. Patterns of thought and the resultant patterns of behaviour we learn in the home are hardest to “unlearn.”

I learnt from my father how a woman should be treated. I learnt from my mother how a woman expects to be treated in a civilised environment. Along with their positive input, there were the bare facts of what happens if you transgress either of their two sets of complementary guidelines. Woe betide …!

This cuts all ways. Children who grow up in an environment where there is violence run a great risk of perpetuating the pattern. The little boy who is molested may be so conditioned as to believe that is the way things ought to go, and repeat to other people what was done to him. Boys are inclined to treat the women in the manner they saw their fathers treat the women in their household. The little girl may grow up to believe that the way she saw things being done in their home is the right way.

Of course there are degrees of violence. I like to believe that the majority of people who read this blog will not be perpetrators of extreme violence. But I think we need to realize that even subtle forms of a lack of regard can establish harmful patterns of behaviour.

Respect is at the base of much civilised behaviour. Respect for other people, their property or their person is the best form of prevention of violence in all degrees. Along with love, respect is a pillar of any happy marriage. Respect is an essential part of an orderly society. It is this element that we need to teach our children from the earliest time of their lives to ensure they do not resort to violence of any kind.

The Bible has clear instructions for this kind of teaching.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6.5-9).

What this passage means is “Do not neglect any opportunities to teach your children the way they should live. Realize that even the most mundane events in the life of your family are great training opportunities.”

Yes, true love, along with all its consequences, both preventative and proactive, begins at home.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | March 25, 2013

Violence Against Women 3: What is a “Real Man”?

Overheard in the gym:

“So are you going to participate in the demonstration against violence against women and children in town today?”

Says Mr Gym Owner: “Definitely not. Only gay men would take part in something like that!”

Can anyone blame the lady for responding: “Are gay men then the only real men?”

Clearly Mr Gym Owner is enmeshed in prejudices and traditional ways of thinking.

What is a real man? Are the purely physical attributes, abundance of testosterone, often accompanying gruff voice and heavier muscles bench marks of the real man? Ask any brave lady and some men with insight that share the above characteristics, and they will tell you that these are often accompanied by a lack of good manners and insensitivity, to mention but a few of the “masculine” liabilities. These criteria may indicate the real “thing” (I use this ambiguously on purpose) but as a man (with testosterone and a gruff voice and all the other trappings that men are supposed to have) I refuse to believe that they are the distinguishing characteristics of real men.

Real men are those who are able and willing to play the role in society that they are supposed to play.

This is not to go around feeling proud about physical strength or the power to dominate – bovine males are generally much more adept at dominating than human males. Neither is it to see yourself as the great progenitor of the human race – rabbits are much better at procreation than we are.

Playing a meaningful role in society as a man means thinking carefully about who you are and what you are supposed to do, and then to proceed to do that with all the energy your testosterone can muster. (I know hormones sometimes get in the way of thinking, but that can be overcome – a by-product of intelligence.)

Some of the words that come to mind are the following: Husband, father, protector, provider, best friend, bearer of wisdom, lover … (Note to the last one: Love refers here to love in the Biblical sense. That is, laying down one’s life for someone (1 John 3.16). That really includes all of the above. Good news is that it also includes physical expression of love in a sexual relationship with the partner you have chosen for life.)

Am I back in the Bible? Definitely! I do not know of any other book or source that contains more proven wisdom about life, and information about the means to liberation from prejudice and other bad habits, as well as how to obtain the strength to live in freedom. Add to that a role model per excellence, and you understand why the Bible is still a best-seller.

The Man Jesus said: “No-one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again (John 10.18).” How’s that for strength!

Come on, men! Let’s be men in body, soul and mind. Let’s follow Jesus.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | March 12, 2013

Violence Against Women 2

What about the “command” in Ephesians 5.22?

Ephesians 5.22 is probably the most popular verse in the Bible for those who love to teach on the submission of women: Wives, submit to your husband as to the Lord. Taken out of context, it sounds like a clear call to women to be obedient to their husbands. If the whole passage is studied, one finds that that is an emaciation of a profound and rich metaphor.

The previous passage describes how followers of Christ should live. It ends with a clear injunction: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5.21).

Submission is thus a character trait of true believers. Every believer should live his or her life in submission to others. This does not speak of slavery, or blind obedience to the desires of others, but to a submissive attitude, where we realize the value of other believers in our lives, and that we cannot and should not attempt to live our lives as Christians without regard for each other.

This sets the tone for the passage on marriage. There should be submission in the church, and there should be submission in marriage.

The roles of the husband and wife are defined as being comparable respectively to Christ and the Church. This has tremendous implications for the interpretation of the term “submit”. In the relationship between Christ and the Church there is no suggestion of enforced authority. Although Christ has the authority as well as the power to enforce it, He leads by example and only through the willing acceptance of the Church. There is no enforced authority on the part of Christ. Conversely, there is no lack of freedom on the part of the Church. The authority of Christ over the Church is given to Him by the church, on the basis of His having loved the church, and having proven it by offering Himself for the church.

The two aspects of the marriage relationship mentioned in Ephesians 5 (love, submission) are not mutually exclusive parts. They overlap, inclusive of each other, and complementary. Put simply: there is a great deal of submission in love, and submission without love, is slavery.

God has given us a definition of love. Whereas John 3.16 is well-known and often quoted to show how great the love of God is, the same chapter and verse in the first letter of John is much less famous. Yet it contains a very concise description of love: “By this we know what love is, that He gave his life for us.” If husbands are expected to love their wives as Christ loved the church, this definition is absolutely relevant for the marriage relationship. There is a great deal of submission in loving someone to this extent – it represents regarding the other person as being of much greater priority than oneself.

The formula for marriage in Ephesians 5, then, makes it quite clear that there is no room for submission in the sense of being ordered to obey – the church does not obey Christ because it is compelled, but willingly, through her love for the Lord. The love that the husband is commanded to bestow on his wife, and the submission the wife is commanded to show towards her husband, are both parts of the same relationship. Love and submission are merely emphases of different aspects of one relationship. There is submission in love, and true submission can only take place where there is love.

Authority in scripture is characterized by protectiveness, rather than ruling over. This is particularly applicable in marriage.

The broader outline of the Gospel confirms this view on the relationship between a man and his wife. There is no distinction between male and female in the sight of God – Jesus is the first liberator of women in the history of the world.

Marriage is a partnership. One is not above the other. Rather, each has a specific role to play. In this manner marriage brings out the best in each partner, and together the partners form a team.

Véroni Krüger
https://veronikruger.wordpress.com/

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | March 4, 2013

Violence Against Women 1

Violence against women is a big problem in South Africa. It may be one of the two most urgent issues South Africans need to address. The other one is the latent aggression that surfaces at the least provocation. Such aggression manifests itself against those who are less able to defend themselves. Women are therefore usually the prime recipients of aggressive behaviour.

The treatment of women is the result of how men perceive them. Sad to say, the wrongful perception men have of women has been perpetuated by the church. That is even sadder, since the church is the one institution that should have played a major role in presenting the correct perception. Much of the wrongful thinking has been strengthened, if not caused, by the incorrect teaching about the submission of women.

The mistaken teaching about the supposed inferior, submissive role women are expected to play, is definitely a post-Christ phenomenon, and probably has its roots in the patriarchal system that was the norm in ancient Rome. Jesus is the greatest equaliser of people the world has ever seen.

Nowhere in his teachings is there a trace of discrimination against women. On the contrary, his actions show a deep respect for them, even some who were regarded as less than respectable. Mary, known as a “sinner”, gate crashed a party in his honour and behaved in a manner that was not really acceptable in public, expressing her gratitude and love for Jesus. Rather than condemning her, He elevated her to the position of a prototype for some theological instruction for the Pharisee (Luke 7.36-50).

On the cross, in his dying moments, he made provision for his mother. With the words “Woman, here is your son” and to the disciple “Here is your mother” (John 19.26, 27), Jesus ensured that Mary would be taken care of after his death.

Women are accorded great prominence in the narrative about Jesus. Mary was the first one to hear the announcement that He would be born. Throughout his life, she is prominent in the record of events. To the honour of women, Luke mentions specifically that women were among the few who did not desert him at the crucifixion (Luke 43). Women were the first to witness the resurrection.

Here is a definitive statement on the position of women from early Christian teaching: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28, NIV). Paul is saying that in the sight of God, there is no distinction based on race, social status or gender. This is a true reflection of what Jesus taught.

Why then, are there so many men who regard women as inferior to themselves? I can think of a few reasons, among them a fear of being overshadowed. Maybe we know instinctively that women are stronger than us in many ways – I don’t know how many men would be able to endure the pains of giving birth, to name only one.

But why does the Bible say women should submit to their husbands? I shall look at that Scripture next time.

For now, I wholeheartedly agree with Alexander Venter, who confessed that he is ashamed to be a man in South Africa right now. Read his blog at the following link: (http://kingdomtreasures.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/south-african-crisis-of-violent-rape-and-murder)

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | September 2, 2012

The Mystical Life

My life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3, NIV). That means that my entire life, with all its vicissitudes and victories, along with all of my weaknesses and strengths, fears and joys, is encompassed within God’s grace and mercy, and covered by his love.

It does not mean that I am perfect – far from it! It does not mean that I am superior to any other human being. It does not mean that I am above being temped, or guaranteed to always have my own way. You see, all of the benefits of being “hidden in God” only come through Jesus Christ. So all I can boast about, is that He redeemed me, and gave ne the right to be his child. Gratitude, and not arrogance, is the only response I can realistically have.

It does not mean that I am granted immunity from all the challenges of this life. Jesus himself prayed “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John17.15). However, it does mean that I am given what Gordon Macdonald calls the “resilient life.” The apostle Paul is talking of this resilient life when he says we may be “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4.8,9).

Even in the eye of the storm, my life is safe, because it is hidden in God. This is expressed in powerful poetry in the Bible:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
(Isaiah 43.2)

Another poet, David said
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me
(Psalms 23.4)

All of this comes free, but not cheaply. It cost Jesus his life, and it demands that I commit myself wholeheartedly to Him. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” is preceded by “For you have died.” “Died” here refers to complete surrender to the Lord.

Here is the choice you and I are faced with: We “die” now (meaning complete surrender to God), and have the sheer joy of living a life that is “hidden in God”, with the certain prospect of even greater joy and fulfillment for eternity. Or we cling to our “independence” (independently being vulnerable to the uncertainties of life) with the certain prospect of unimaginable suffering when we are eternally separated completely from the source of light and life.

I know what I have chosen.

Are you thinking this is too “mystical”? Don’t fool yourself. You are by definition a mystical being. There are truths that cannot be apprehended intellectually, but only spiritually. And you are not just a machine built out of physical substances that also has a mind. The fact is that there is an element of your being that can only be satisfied by associating with God. So why not acknowledge that, and cultivate that relationship?

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | August 19, 2012

Lonmin – What were they thinking? What are you thinking?

 The facts about the tragic incident at the Lonmin mine in South Africa are still emerging.  According to the ways of the world we live in, these facts will be embroidered on, countered with other facts, falsified, and treated in different ways until we will all only “know” what we want to know, and others will ‘know” differently.

Everybody was right and everybody was wrong.

The police should not have used sharp ammunition – on the other hand, their lives were in danger.  The protesters should not have resorted to violent means to achieve their purposes – on the other hand they had exhausted every other means of persuading their employers that their wages were inadequate.  The employers should have conceded to the claims of the miners – on the other hand they believed the wages were reasonable in light of general economic conditions.

On the fringes of this tragedy there are some role players of whose roles it is difficult to find “on the other hands.”  The “medicine man” who reportedly performed rituals over the miners that made them think they were invincible (on the other hand, he was so steeped in darkness that he did not realize what he was doing?).  Those who are trying to gain politically from the whole fiasco – I’m afraid I cannot find an “on the other hand” other than plain dishonesty and self-centredness.

And beyond these, there are the pundits who are explaining everything in terms that are acceptable to their readers/listeners.  On the other hand they have to make a living somehow, don’t they, never mind if they are speaking the truth.

And then there are those who do not listen to the news, because they are so heavenly  minded that they are no longer interested in what happens here.  To them I want to say on the other hand, this is still God’s world.  You may be so elevated that you do not care any more, but God cares.

Leading up to the tragedy and during the tragic events, there was one who was wrong without any shadow of doubt.  That is the Enemy of all that is good, the Destroyer, the Anti-Christ, Satan, the devil.  We need to recognize that, and realize that he is the one we need to stand against.   

What were the people thinking?  (Were they even thinking?) That is not so important as     

“What is God thinking”?  Of course, it is impossible to know what God is thinking.  Judging from what we know about God, I would say He is deeply saddened.

We read in the Bible of one day (I’m sure there were many more) when Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.  We also that He looked at the crowds and felt intensely sorry for them, because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”  And at the grave of Lazarus He  burst into tears out of compassion for the people.

What are you thinking?  If we think of ourselves as devout Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, I would say we should be weeping with those who mourn, and fighting against the forces of evil that are causing havoc among people.

 

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 31, 2012

Who Do You Listen To?

One of the things that distinguish humans from animals is the faculty of critical thinking. We value it highly, and good educational systems encourage it. Also, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids that – how could God, who bestowed this faculty on us as one of the attributes of himself not want us to use our minds?

Lately, however, I have been disturbed by over-emphasis on everything negative. It usually begins with what seems to be a healthy, critical examination of trends of the day, be it politics or economics, customs or “the youth.” Often it focuses on other people’s behaviour. In the US it is often partisan, where in the eyes of some the democrats can do nothing right, while in the eyes of others, the republicans are even worse. In South Africa it often centres on racial issues. There is particularly one group of people that believe everything in the country is wrong, and will only be rectified when one group is permanently removed.

The word “demonize” comes to mind as an apt description of what some do to others in what they say about them.

The word may be a more accurate description of that kind of talk than we at first want to admit. I it usually means something like attributing something very bad to someone. I want to use it here in the sense of indicating an attitude that is instigated by the devil himself.

The word “devil” is derived from a Greek word that means “slanderer” or “accuser.” One could truthfully say that he is the slanderer and accuser par excellence. When he was tempting Eve he tried to get her to believe false rumours about God. He tried to slander Job in conversation with God. Revelation 12.10 describes his fall as follows: “… the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” Jesus calls him the father of lies. Even as he accuses and slanders, he is always inventing lies. His creativity goes only as far as inventing falsehoods.

Critically evaluating something is one thing. It may even lead to correction if we are prepared to do something constructive about it. But consistent, obsessive negativity may border on the demonic. And as we embroider on what we perceive as being the truth, we tend to exaggerate until we utter false generalizations.

Two disciples of Jesus one day were “righteously indignant” (nice feeling, is it not?) when the Samaritans did not quite measure up to their expectations of how they should treat Jesus. Did Jesus feel good about that? No, on the contrary, Jesus rebuked them. Some versions say He said “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of!” I would translate that sentence as “You do not realize what spirit it is that controls you!”

You and I have a choice. Either we give in to the spirit of accusation, or we go with the Spirit that blesses. And you know what? As we accuse others, our own guilt only grows. But as we speak freedom and blessing over others, our own freedom is affirmed, and we are blessed.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 24, 2012

What Does “Son Of God” Mean?

A Matter of Mistaken Identity?

Some Bible translation organizations are debating on how the phrase “Son of God” should be translated. (Let me hasten to say that The Word for the World, the organization I am involved in, is not part of that debate.) The issue is, of course, the divinity of Jesus Christ. Some translators would like to translate the phrase in such way that the divinity is not emphasized. Their chief motivation, it seems, is that Muslims should not be offended, and should not have the opportunity of accusing Christians of having more than one God.

Since this debate has spilt over into the realm of believers in general, I feel I should comment on the issue.

The phrase “Son of God” really means “truly God Himself,” like “son of man” means “truly a human being.” There is therefore no doubt that the phrase emphasizes the fact that Jesus Christ is divine. Any translation that is intended to be an accurate representation of the intended message of the original should express that very clearly.

The issue is somewhat clouded by insisting that there is a “biological” relationship between God the Father and God the Son, as if Jesus is the next generation who is in a father-son relationship with God the Father. Picturing Jesus as the young son following Daddy God around detracts from the divinity of Jesus. Let me say it again: Jesus Christ is truly God.

Do we understand the Holy Trinity? Definitely not, and those who pretend they do have usually not really contemplated the truth of the triune God or are afraid to admit they do not understand Him.

The “biological” view of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is what invites the criticism that Christians worship more than one God. From a purely logical point of view, I think that criticism is justified. If we have God the Father on the one hand, and another, separate being altogether who is also divine, but not the same as the Father on the other, we do in fact have more than one God.

More important than what translators argue about, or who may be offended, is what our attitude towards Jesus Christ is. The Bible is pretty clear that there are two possible attitudes towards Jesus: Acknowledging that He is the Son of God emanates from God. Not being willing to acknowledge that emanates from the opposite spirit. And I for one definitely do not want to associate with him!
(1 John 4.15; 2 John 7)

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 17, 2012

What are you looking at?

“We want to see Jesus!” was what the Greeks said to Phillip (John 12.21).  That was also my text message to a pastor who had just placed an advertisement in our local newspaper.

On a certain day, the advert said, that particular denomination would start regular meetings at such and such a venue.   There would be a band consisting of every type of musical instrument imaginable .  (He went beyond that, naming instruments that I had never heard of and I’m sure don’t really exist.)  A person who he described as the “best musician in the country” had relocated to our village with the express purpose of leading this band.  This new “church” would be meeting once a week.

It reminded me of another pastor who I once heard saying “I’m starting a band in my church, that will play the Holy Ghost into the church!”  And, different topic, but same theme:   “Just give your offering today, and God will heal you/make you prosperous.”  Or, sitting beside the bed of a lady who was desperately ill, and hearing her say:   “The evangelist said I am sick because I have not been giving my tithes regularly.” 

All of this while the crying need of every human being is Jesus Christ, God Himself, who became a human being, died for the sins of mankind to reconcile us with God, rose as victor over death and evil itself, and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for everyone who believes in Him.   He also gave the Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, truly God, to make sure we will know that we are not alone, but have Immanuel, “God with us” present with us, even more, in us. 

What’s with all the gimmicks?  A gimmick is a gimmick, whether it is any of the things I have pointed out above, or anything else we substitute for the “real thing.” 

I knew the denomination in whose name that pastor was advertising his band very well.   I grew up in it, and saw great miracles of transformation in people’s lives taking place before my eyes when a straightforward message of Jesus and his power was proclaimed.  Is it too much to ask of church leaders:   “We want to see Jesus?”

Maybe it is too much to ask, because it takes complete surrender to the will of God, relinquishing all denominational prejudice and arrogance, and really allowing the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to work transformation in one’s own life before you can become a channel through which Jesus can be seen.

John had the right idea when he said “I should become less, so that He can become more.”  

Statistics show that there are many Christians who are not going to church any more.  I’m sure some would say this blog describes exactly why they are avoiding church.  Be that as it may, but do you realize the request of the Greeks comes to you and me today even as insistently as it came to Phillip, as I sent to the pastor?  As part of a local congregation, or as individuals, if we are prepared to listen, we will hear the crying need of people around us, for Jesus.  Not for condemnation or a self-righteous holier-than-thou attitude.  “We want to see Jesus!”       

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 10, 2012

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … in all wisdom

SO WHY HAVE I BEEN SO QUIET?

My last posting was nine months ago.  Why is that?  Did I run out of steam?  Did I stop thinking that I have something to share that may be of value to others?  Did I lose the desire that motivates people to write?  Among those that know me, it’s clear that my whole life is driven by what some call a “calling.”  So, did Veroni lose the calling?  Did he even maybe backslide? 

There are practical reasons for my silence:  Back surgery  (very successful, by the way, in spite of the apparent expectations of some people who keep asking me “So how long has it been now?”);  sustained dramatic growth in the international organization that I lead, and the accompanying increase of activities for the Chief Executive Officer;  many travels to faraway places – all part of the privilege I have to do the work I do;  renovations to our home, and the resultant disturbance of routines…

All credible reasons, but not really the core issue.

Fact is, I am confronted by the realization that we tend to talk too much and listen too little.  That much of what we say is pure regurgitation of what we have been told.  Don’t get me wrong:  Truth can never be repeated too often, especially because most people talk more than they listen, and therefore should be told truth over and over again.  But when we present age-old adages as if they are revelations that we received yesterday, then I begin to feel they really need not have been said one more time, and in an authoritative tone of voice to boot.

You see, I stopped reading your typical soft cover Christian inspirational literature years ago.  And last year all of what I had said and thought about such literature came back to “bite” me, as they say.  So why should I write anything?

Now I am beginning to feel the stirring that I may have something to say after all – something that may be of benefit to someone, that may even bless them.  And so I am going to blog again!  Because I feel the need to write a blog –who knows but that it may be the Lord leading me in this way?  Maybe someone will recognize something of their own struggles in what I will be writing.  Most of all, I hope that something of God will be revealed in the writings of one who has come to the point where he can truly say:  The longer I serve God, the more I love Him and the more I trust Him, but the less I understand Him – because He has become so big in my thoughts.

Experience tells me I should not post this piece – “Everything you say may (will?) be used against you.”  Yet I see myself as simply a contemplative follower of Jesus Christ who is willing to share with others what he has seen and experienced, and has learned from it all.

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