“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”—Psalms 51:13 (ESV)
My father never missed to pick up the daily newspaper. It was always on agenda for him to know what was going on around the world, at the time when there were a handful of FM radio stations, no satellite TV (just UTV). The other thing he never did was throw away a newspaper after reading it, he always kept them with all the pages intact, and in proper page order.
When I came around at the start of the 1990s, I found these papers dating from the early 1980’s. Then the late 1990’s came, and I learned to read. As I dug into these papers, I was struck by the most gruesome black and white pictures an eye could meet. On top of the images, in bold letters, was the name, Kony.
This was the era of the LRA insurgency in Northern Uganda. But the thing that puzzled me the most, even up to my 20’s, was how the UPDF (Ugandan Army) would capture LRA rebels, grant them asylum, absorb them into the force, and later send them to the battleground to fight against the very cohorts they were part of.
This troubled me a lot. “Won’t they double-cross them? What if they change their minds, again? And how in this freakin’ world would we trust rebels to clean up their own mess?” Those were some of the questions that kept my curiosity going.
That was when God brought Psalm 51 my way, all to show me that He had been doing it since time in memorial and that the UPDF was reading from His script. The events of this Psalm come after David had messed up with Bathsheba. The Bible also tells us that Bathsheba was drop-dead gorgeous (not my words)!
David asks God to blot out his sin, restore him so that he will go back to the battleground and fight the very thing that had earlier on kicked him in the head. There are a few reasons why God uses rebels in His business. First of all, they have seen how ugly sin is and can no longer stand its reeking company.
Secondly, they will not stand around and watch their friends and family fall into the very thing that brought them misery, and since they have been single-handedly saved by God from it, it’s instinctive of them to stand against it.
And thirdly, rebels are all that there are. Since Adam and Eve took the Serpent’s lead to be their own god, everyone born after them comes into this world with a rebellious heart (Psalm 51:5). That is why a three-month old baby will cry when its mother leaves the room, at that age the baby thinks that it alone has the best plan for its mother and what those little sharp cries communicate is: “Sit still and know that I am [lord], I have a plan for your sorry life!”
God is in the business of using rebels, in fact, that is all he does throughout the bible: murderers, liars, adulterers, thieves, prostitutes, doubters, half-breeds, gluttons, even nagging Pharisees. As someone once put it, “There is no “us and them,” just “us and HIM.””
“Us” is God’s natural selection; it is the only pool he has to pick from. This is very comforting to me because God doesn’t just blot out my sin on account of His Son, but also gives me a new name—Saint—and then sends me out to tell His story. He wants to use you as well, because as Martin Luther said: “We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.”