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Can the Gospel Really Change South Africa?

South Africa is in desperate need of change. The only thing that can really change our future is the gospel of Jesus. Most people think the government must fix it, or the police, or the courts, or maybe the economy will fix everything. These things will help, but hardly ever do we stop to consider how the gospel can change our country.

How much trouble are we in? Here are some stats to consider:

The Cost of Crime

  • 165 000 prisoners
  • 12th highest prison population in the world
  • Nearly R30 billion per annum
  • R 350 per prisoner per day

Family in Crisis

  • Of the nearly 1 million babies born last year in South Africa, 61.7% have no information about their father included on their birth certificate.
  • 60% of SA kids are growing up in homes that have absent fathers.
  • About 44% divorce before their tenth wedding anniversary.

Cost of Fatherlessness (statistics from USA)

  • 70% of unplanned teenage pregnancies occur in homes where there is no father.
  • 69% more likely to use drugs .
  • 76% more likely to commit crimes.
  • 85% of all children who show behaviour disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.

Our families are falling apart. This is the cause of so many of our social problems. Fix broken families and we fix nearly 80% of our social problems in South Africa. We need men and women to learn to live together in the covenant of marriage to raise their children in a loving, caring and respectful environment. Sadly too many households are run by single mothers doing their heroic best with absent fathers not taking up any of their responsibilities in the home.

If we consider the horrifically high rape count in South Africa, clearly what we need are good godly men in the home. We need good godly men at home to raise their boys well so that they learn to grow up with good morals and good behavior. The problem is that we think we can play fast and loose with God’s ordained institution of the family, to live how we like, and still think that the outcomes are going to be ok. Instead our modern morals (or rather lack thereof) leave men to live wild and free without taking any responsibility for their actions. But little boys need a father to learn how to grow up to be good men: respectful and responsible, moral and merciful, and to lead with integrity.  This is especially important when those little boys get to their teenage years.

The question then becomes, where do we find these good godly men? Given that so many of our men have a bad start in life how do bad men become good?

The change that is needed in our families, in our men, is a change on the inside. That is where it all starts. The typical human tendency is to want our external circumstances to change in order for us to feel content and happy. If only I had enough money. If only I had the right education. If only we all had the same privileges and opportunities. This is the mistake that politicians and social scientists often make. They forget that what is needed in society is fundamental, heart level, inside out change. Jesus knew this only too well, on one occasion telling his disciples that …

Mark 7:15ff … “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. … What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.      

The Gospel tells us that God changes humans and that the place that needs the most change is our hearts. It just so happens that the only power on earth strong enough to change a man’s heart is the gospel. In the gospel God makes the astounding announcement that he won’t take our sins into account and doesn’t hold them against us. This is made possible by Christ’s payment on the cross. But not only does God forgive us our sins, Christ then pours his life-giving life into our hearts to change them from being actively bad to actively good.  The Gospel has a special power that nothing else does. It gets inside a man’s heart and changes him from the inside out. Paul talks about it in terms of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5: 17ff …  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

This aspect of the Gospel is fundamental and primary. But it doesn’t stop there! Being reconciled to God changes a person. Changed people automatically start bringing about change in their immediate environment and for most people that will be in the context of their family. We become agents of change our self. And what’s more we are not called to be individual change agents, but to belong to a body, a community of change agents… the Church. The Church itself is a place of change. We meet together for mutual encouragement and to help each other grow in love towards God and love towards out neighbour. As the book of Hebrew tells us …

Hebrews 10: 24 – 25 “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Once we have been changed from the inside, the gospel of Christ empowers the Christian church to make a difference in the world, to change things that need changing beyond just the human heart. But it is key to know that that is where the change must start. And the only power in the world strong enough to change the human heart is the Gospel of Christ. Once that has been changed it allows men to grow up and be men. Good, godly men that love their wives, love their kids, grow their families and ensure the next generation of men in South Africa can be different and make a difference.


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About Dylan Marais

Dylan is a pastor at St Mark's Plumstead and oversees their social action projects


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