This blog post is being shared from Women Of Hope International, written by Kim Kargbo, and is used with permission. Learn more about this great organization at www.womenofhopeinternational.org or visit their Facebook page here.
Most of the women we work with in West Africa have not received an education, and therefore don't read. Thus, all of our training is done using oral methods - stories, songs, skits, role plays, etc. In trying to teach the deeper truths of the Gospel we ran short on finding a lesson that adequately addressed some of the wrong beliefs they have about salvation - most of which stem from their Islamic upbringing. We needed a story that epitomized the essence of the Gospel - that God chose us because He wanted to, that He loves us because He IS love, not because we are loveable, that we don't deserve salvation, that He had planned for our redemption before we even existed... So, we created a story, in an Africa context that would show just that. Perhaps it will also minister to you also as you ponder His great redeeming and undeserved love for you.
The Chief Who Loved His People
Long ago there lived a chief. The chief was a very powerful ruler, but very, very kind. He loved the people of his village very much and did all he could to make their lives good. His people, however, were very stubborn and rebellious. The chief was extremely patient and continued to try to teach his people to do right. He knew that if they did the right things, their lives would be so much better.
The chief had only one son. This son would become the next chief of the village. The chief ruled with his son constantly by his side. The son loved the people as much as his father did. Together they would talk about ways to improve the lives of their people, even though the people wouldn’t listen.
The chief would try to teach his people how to improve their crops, but the people didn’t care. They did it their own way. When they had a poor yield they would complain to the chief that they did not have enough food and demand that he provide food for them. The chief made laws about sanitation in the village in order to keep the people healthy. But the people didn’t care. They were dirty – leaving standing water around their houses, going to the toilet anywhere they wanted, refusing to wash their hands. They said they didn’t have enough money to build the latrines and buy the soap that the chief said they should use. And when they got sick, they blamed the chief, saying that he was sending curses to them for not following his rules. The chief refused to grant divorces in his village, saying he wanted the people to learn to love each other well. He also knew that if he allowed divorce, the women would suffer the most and he wanted to protect them. The chief loved his wife dearly, and tried to show by his example how to love sacrificially. But the people wouldn’t listen. When they got tired of their wife or husband, they just slept with someone else’s. When the families broke up, they took the case to the chief and if he wouldn’t rule in their favor – which was impossible, of course, to please everyone – they got angry at him.
Finally, the troublesome people got fed up with the chief and his rules. “What does he know anyway?” they said. “We are smart too and we don’t need his rules. His son is just as bad as he is – always telling us what to do. Let’s teach them a lesson.” So the people conspired together how to be rid of the chief. They made plans to ruin him and make him leave the village. Some of the people thought that they shouldn’t be that harsh, but they were overruled by the others.
Late one night, when the chief and his son had gone away to a chief’s council, the people revolted. “He thinks he knows best how to grow crops – then let him regrow his own!” they yelled as they set fire to his fields. “And he thinks he is so clean? Let’s see how clean he is now!” they said, as they smashed his latrine and threw poop all around his compound.
By now their rage had grown. Some of the people did not participate, but they watched and nodded while the others destroyed the chief’s property. Then they decided to wound the chief most severely. They rushed into his house and took his wife. They raped her and killed her, leaving her in front of the door for the chief to find when he returned the next day.
When the chief returned and saw what had happened, his grief was great. He fell on his wife’s body and cried bitterly. Then he composed himself and looked out over his village with great sadness. The son also cried many tears. The chief looked at his people, feeling sadness and compassion on them. He asked, “Is there anyone who stood up for me during this event?” But no one answered him – because no one had.
The chief sent to the chief’s council and they convened a court hearing. The people had forgotten one thing. There was an even higher law of the whole land. The chief did not make the law himself, it had existed from the beginning of time. Treason against a chief was a capital crime, punishable by death. The law of the land demanded that when a people revolted against a chief, the life of everyone involved must be taken in payment. This grieved the chief, but he was not allowed to overrule that law – no matter how much he loved his people. The other chiefs gave the verdict – the entire village must die, men, women and children alike. The chief thought hard. Finally, he asked to speak to the council.
“Please, Your Excellencies, I want to propose an exchange.”
“An exchange?!?” they asked. This had never been done. The people must die. It was the law.
“I know that life must be taken, for that is a law higher than any of us. But I want a chance to redeem my people. If they die in their hatred, there will be nothing good in it, and I will have no village. I love my people and want only their good. I will give my son, my only son. He will die on their behalf, so that the people may live.”
“But he has done nothing wrong!” the chiefs exclaimed. “Why should he die for what he did not do? In fact, the crime was against him as well.”
“True, Your Excellencies. But my son and I have talked about this day. We knew it would come and we have agreed that his life would be given in exchange for theirs. Please check the law well…”
The chiefs held council for some time, and finally they agreed. “There is a part of our law,” they said, “that says that if one who has done nothing wrong offers himself instead, then the guilty party may live. Your son may die in the place of your people.”
So, the chiefs executed the son before all the people. While he died, tears ran from his eyes as he viewed the people before him. They were not tears of anger, but tears of compassion, for he knew that though their lives had been spared, some would continue to rebel and they would suffer for their rebellion against his father.
And some did continue to rebel. But many of the people were amazed at the depth of the love of their chief. In this act of sacrifice, they realized that he loved them so much that he would even give his own son to die in their place. This was a love they had not understood before. So many of the people begged the chief for his forgiveness and mercy and loved him for what he had done. Those people began to obey the laws he made, realizing that he really did have their good in mind. They obeyed him out of gratefulness for what he had done for them. And as they obeyed, their lives improved, just as he said they would.
The chief ruled for many, many years and people told the story of his great sacrifice to their children and their children’s children for many generations. Wherever it was told, many grew to love him, as he had loved them.
Copyright 2012 Women of Hope International