“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of" (John 10:10)
This is such a well known and quoted verse today. I’ve heard it quoted hundreds of times by Christians all over the world. I have been thinking about this verse for some time now, though not in a way I have often heard it spoken about before. Try and imagine the following situation: two siblings, a girl called Nonsipho, ten years old, and her brother Lucky, four years old, lost both their parents and are living in what we call a child-headed household in a very poor community. There are no adults in their house. As one school principle described them to me recently, “They are dirty, hungry and confused. Confused and disorientated not knowing what the next step should be.” Now let’s imagine these kids go to church one Sunday. A visitor is preaching the service and uses the verse John 10:10, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
What do you think would be Nonsipho and Lucky’s understanding of this verse? Think of the words, steal, kill and destroy for a moment in their context. All three of these words have a very specific meaning in their lives. Their parents were killed and they still do not understand why and how. The one good word to describe their lives would be destroyed! Their future, hopes and security were stolen by the deaths of their parents. They have no hope and they are super vulnerable. The very people they trusted to protect them betrayed them by dying without explaining why. Things taken for granted by any other child in the world are a huge challenge for them. Every night they face the unknown; in the morning to eat breakfast is a wishful dream. Going to school is most properly one of the biggest dreams they have as they watch other children going to school. The smallest thing like an ear ache or someone bullying them is a huge challenge with no answer. Their childhood was stolen!
Now back to the sermon, let’s consider how Nonsipho and Lucky would interpret John 10:10 when they heard it for the first time that Sunday morning from the guest speaker? Again hear these words through their ears, “more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. Did they hear right? Could it be possible that the visiting pastor brought them a miracle today? Now I may be walking on thin ice! Imagine the pastor starts to speak about Jesus’ salvation and eternal life and then does an alter call! Nonsipho cannot believe what she is hearing and she jumps off her chair, grabs her younger brother and pulls him with her to the front. Her face is shining. She had been wrong! There are people who care and this man is going to show them where to find this life! Do I need to go further about what took place after the alter call? Perhaps we can jump past a few events and end up later that night when Nonsipho is sitting outside the hut staring at the stars. She had put her brother to bed and promised him tomorrow will be easier. The stars are beautiful tonight but her heart is heavy and it feels like bursting. The same feeling she had at her mother’s funeral is back in full force. You do not love me!! Why have you left me! You promised me life!
What did Jesus mean when He said I brought you life in abundance? How do we interpret that verse for ourselves and our children? Why do we do it differently for Nonsipho and Lucky? Is all we want for our children to know Jesus as their Savior? In a sense it is correct – or it is the ultimate relationship we want more than anything. But surely we want our children to eat every day; we want them to be happy and safe; we want them to go to school. Isn’t that part of “life in abundance”?