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The hardest sermon I have ever preached

Content warning: This blog contains reference to violence and sexual abuse.

I was in Colombia around 10 years ago and had seen the normalisation of the abuse of children. If you have seen the film the Sound of Freedom you will have an idea of some of the stories.

A group of 50 dedicated pastors gathered in front of me as I opened up the Bible to a passage I had never preached on before: Judges 19.

This passage relates the story of the Levite whose concubine is raped, abused and left for dead by the wicked men of the city. The Levite wakes in the morning and finds her dead on the doorstep of the house he had stayed the night in. He picks her up and carries her home on his donkey.

Arriving home he cuts up her body and sends a piece of it to every tribe. When people see it they say, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

As I shared with the pastors some of the stories I heard I said we cannot allow these things to be normal in this society. (Every pastor knew of children in their church who had been sexually abused.) We could feel the burden of God in the room. ‘We must do something!’ So began a prayer movement to pray Basta Ja – Enough is enough.

Today I find myself feeling the same – not towards the nation of Colombia, but to my home nation, England. As news reports of a 15 year old girl, Elianne Andam being stabbed on her way to school by a teenage boy as she tried to protect her friend.

There have been so many stabbings, so much senseless violence on our streets, as well as issues flowing from drugs, broken homes and a society that is falling apart.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that Elianne’s famiy are going through as they grieve their daughter who set off for school and never made it. The pain of the friend who was protecting Elianne. The pain of the boy’s family as the story is front page media. The pain in the school and the pain in the boy himself. It is overwhelming.

When I told the people in Colombia the stories I had uncovered of lives that had suffered and suffering that had been ignored they told me a similarly shocking story from 10 years earlier when an American pastor had been to visit. They looked at me 10 years on and said, we heard but did nothing. I knew that 10 years later I did not want to look back and say the same, hence we did what we could starting a prayer movement and visiting some of the teenage drug rehab centres to take the Gospel to some of the most vulnerable children.

Now in the UK I feel the same. Let’s not let the stories of damaged lives be normalized among us. Let’s not just hear and do nothing. Let’s start to fight for this next generation.

The solution to the state we find our nation in is not political, though there are always more that can be done. The solution is not social, though we have good evidence available of changes we should aim for. The solution is spiritual. As we call our nation back to God hearts are changed. (This is the story of the Welsh revival among others as changed hearts led to changed lives. In some areas the police had no crime to follow up on for weeks at a time as God moved.)

As Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 2:19:

‘Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner.’

Let’s rise up and pray for this generation who are spiritual starved of truth and the good news. Let’s fight for families. If you are stirred as I am, don’t let this moment pass you by. At the very least pause to pray for this generation that they may discover hope, purpose and life in Jesus. Lay a good foundation for the children in your life.

In the words of Israel when they received a piece of the dead concubine, ‘Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!’


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