We all like to think we’re special. The truth is, we are.
We are immeasurably special.
Yes, even you. You, you as an individual, you. You are made bearing the indelible and unique hallmark of the divine Source of all things. You were bought for Him at an unimaginable, inexpressible, uncountable cost. He’d have done it for you if you were the only one left. You are precious and deeply, personally, intimately loved in ways you can’t express or hope to understand this side of mortality.
You are special.
A pretty average book helped me understand that. Remember The Shack? A decently written novel about suffering and God. The God character whispers in the ear of the one who suffers “I am especially fond of you”. Beautiful, that. The only part of the book that stayed with me. God is especially fond of me.
What made that powerful in The Shack was that it eventually became apparent that God whispered of special fondness to each and every person. It’s utterly personal, deeply unique … and equally addressed to each and every person. That makes me deeply loved and very special – but also not that special at the same time. God performs the clever juxtaposition of boosting my self-esteem and keeping my ego in check at the same time.
The same is true for countries. Every country is special. Every country is unique. I suppose we might even be able to say that God has a special purpose for each country. Every country is different, so every country has its own purpose to perform. He chose one country through which to make that plain, but only so that each country and each person could find their own special place and purpose.
I’ve thought about all this a great deal recently, and it became inescapable for me when a meme started popping up in my social media feeds. South Africa – where I live and work – is experiencing a convulsion of rage and protest which will lead we know not yet where. It’s shaking a lot of people – which it should do, needs to. The meme talked of God not letting South Africa go – to which I heartily and fully say ‘Amen’. It said other things, though. Like this: “He loves you too much to let you keep the racism”. There are other things that meme says that God loves the country too much to let it fall back into.
I understand the sentiment, and it sounds Godly. It’s certainly true that God doesn’t want people or countries to be racist or to foster poverty. But the existence of those things is down to us, not Him. Keeping racism? That’s on me, not God.
God has special purposes for South Africa – just as He as special purposes for every country – but embracing those is up to the people of the country. If we get it right, it’s a reflection of His grace and good and to His glory. If we don’t, it’s on us. To suggest – even by implication – that God loves us too much to fall back into old traps is to imply that one country is favoured over another. What about the countries where those things are happening (and let’s be honest, most of them are already happening in South Africa anyway)? Does God love them any less because those countries are further down the rabbit hole?
God is incredibly fond of South Africa. But no more so than He is of any other country. Expressed uniquely, personally, locally to South Africa for sure; but the love is shared around to every other country also, and none are left unequally unloved. South Africa is very special to God, and is also just like every other country. He gives us the tools, the invitation, the capacity to let go of poverty and racism and corruption. But it will be for no lack of God’s love if they seem to win; that’s on us, and us alone.