I love Malawi. I really do. But like any place made up of broken people, it is flawed and has parts that are very unlovable.
It can be very easy to hate Malawi. By hate, I mean let frustration and challenging experience breed bitterness and hardness in our hearts that leaves us harbouring hurt and blame on a country.
I know people of all nationalities (including Malawian) who have hatred for Malawi. I had hatred for Malawi, until I realised, I don’t hate Malawi. I hate how Malawi reflects and highlights my own brokenness. I hate my sin, which is the same sin as the one that makes Malawi broken. That makes the world broken.
The first thing that happed last week that made me realise that I don’t hate Malawi was that Roger Federer came to town, for 1 day. I am a HUGE Roger fan. But it irritated me that we would give him such press and reward for the donation of what is in reality a very small portion of his income and time. I hated Malawi for its inclination to give such attention to someone not because of their service, but because of their position.
Then I realised, this irritates me because for some reason in my arrogant heart, I was jealous. Jealous for myself who invests my life here. And jealous for the servant-hearted teachers and workers who will invest their lives, at very high cost into children towards the future of this country. I feel that I have the power to prescribe the reward that is deserved from generosity.
Jesus said ‘store treasure in heaven’ suggesting that we will probably not know the rewards of generosity until we meet that heaven. Whether we’re giving a multi-million donation to a personally named aid fund, or MKW500 ($1). God will prescribe and determine the reward deserved by such generosity.
I found further reason from Roger’s visit to hate Malawi- when it saddened me that he contributed millions of dollars towards building children’s centres, and still the staff of those centres are advocating for reasonable wages. For all his fame, fortune and power, he cannot fix this issue that is poverty, sin and inequality. This poverty will persist, not because of lack of resource, but because of greedy hearts that will hoard, steal and control this resource in ways that do not promote generous distribution.
I realised that for some reason in my arrogant heart, I still think that we will fix this alone. That is we have enough resource and fame and privilege we will be able to lift this terrible burden. This is an issue that starts in our own hearts.
Poverty will not be history until Jesus makes it so. In his book ‘Blue like Jazz’ Don Miller summed this up.
“ I think that every living person, ever person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group thinking, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there, the problem is the needy beast of a thing, living in my chest” Don Miller.
I was provoked again towards hating Malawi when I found myself in a situation with an associate, who reaps reward, despite evidencing very poor work ethic. I became frustrated and wanted to declare ‘who are you to receive reward’. In some Malawian work contexts it can become a dominant cultural norm for work ethic to be poor, though I know this not to be true for all Malawian people.
For some reason in my arrogant heart, I feel that I have right to determine what others deserve based on their works. The thing is that some days my work ethic is not honouring of God either. Whilst I would love to say that my careers, opportunities and privileges are exclusively because of the hard work I have put in. It would be a lie. I have amazing had gifts bestowed upon me including my birthplace, my high-quality education, my interest-free University-loan and my access to technology and information to name a few.
My salvation is not based on my works, but on the gift of faith, which God has freely given and I have freely received. I do not believe poor-work ethic is excusable and I believe we must challenge each other and speak truth into each other’s lives to ‘spur each other on’.
Simultaneously, as a heart that stands on the foundation of free-grace, it is hypocritical of me to point at colleagues and suppose I can determine what others deserve based on their works.
Then, after this week of warring between the revelation of Gods-grace and my inclination to be bitter and hateful towards Malawi, my experience peaked when
I went to the Department for Road traffic to get my Australian licence converted to a Malawian licence. After some hours of waiting, I was informed that the application I submitted 6 months ago was wrongly processed and I would have to start over again. Additionally, the cost of an International conversation has gone up 4 times since that previous application and I would have to pay that.
In Malawi sometimes the complexity and brokenness of the systems make it easier and cheaper to do the wrong thing. For example, for the cost of converting my licence I could get fined 9 times for not converting my licence. Alternately I could just lie to police men and declare that I am always newly arrived. I am sad to say that my arrogant and broken-heart is inclined towards this option. Which made me realise that it is easy to hate Malawi for making this option blantant and obvious. But isn’t this just a reflection of the state of our hearts?
It is not only Malawi that makes the wrong thing the easier option. In my experience, it is always easier to lie than to face truth. It is always easier to steal than to earn. It is easier to ignore painful truth than face it. It is my nature.
It is not Malawi that I hate. It is sin that I hate. It is my own sin that is reflected in and provoked by my surroundings. The arrogance, pride, self-righteousness and greed that I show in how I respond to and treat others, especially when I am in a cultural-context I may not understand.
In Matthew 5 Jesus said
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”
When he said ‘mourn’, He meant ‘to mourn sin’. I want to challenge anyone who has ever hated their country, or the system they work or live within, to stop and consider why you hate that country or system. I suspect what you will also find is that you do not hate that country. You hate how that country reflects and provokes your worst nature.
I find that if you get to the root of it, you will find that you don’t hate that country. You mourn your sin.
You. Will. Be. Comforted.