Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A King's Kid

The article in The Washington Post on September 16, 2009, began with these words: “The king folds her own laundry, chauffeurs herself around Washington in a 1992 Honda, and answers her own phone. Her boss's phone, too.” The article was about Peggielene Bartels, secretary to the Ghanian embassy in Washington D.C. for 30 years. She's originally from Otuam, Ghana, a small city of about 7,000, and her story is a fascinating one.

When the 90-year-old king of Otuam, Ghana, died, the elders did what they always have done: a ritual to determine the next king. They prayed and poured schnapps on the ground while they read the names of the king's 25 relatives. When steam rose from the schnapps on the ground, the name that they were reading at that moment would be the new king—and that's exactly what happened when they read Peggielene's name.

So now Peggielene is a king—yes, a king, not a queen (when she pointed out to the elders that she is a woman, they replied by saying the office of king is the post that was open). When she goes back to Ghana, she has a driver and a chef and an eight-bedroom palace (though it needs repairs). She has power to resolve disputes, appoint elders, and manages more than 1,000 acres of family-owned land. “I'm a big-time king, you know,” she told the reporter. When she returned for her coronation, they carried her through the streets on a litter. She even wore a heavy gold crown.[1]

Paul Schwartzman, the reporter, wrote, "In the humdrum of ordinary life, people periodically yearn for something unexpected, some kind of gilded escape, delivered, perhaps, by an unanticipated inheritance or a winning lottery ticket. Well, Peggielene got the unexpected.” The truth is, if you have come to Christ then your whole identity has changed.

Look at what Paul said about the ordinary believer in Christ, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26). For those in Christ, our identity has been radically changed. Once we were the Devil’s children, living in sin because that was our true spiritual heritage (1 John 3:10). By grace we have been transferred into the family of God and given a brand-new identity. John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Notice there is a crucial limitation here as well. This change of identity is only for those who have “faith in Christ Jesus.” Why is this important? Because often you will hear people thoughtlessly say, “We’re all God’s children,” as if to imply that everyone on earth is a child of God. But that is not true! There isn’t a single verse in the Bible that teaches such a thing. A more biblical way to say it would be that we’re all God’s creation, but only those who trust in Christ are truly God’s children. Without faith in Jesus there is no entrance into God’s family.

[1] Paul Schwartzman, “Peggielene Bartels: Secretary by Day, Royalty by Night," The Washington Post, 16 September 2009 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503393.html> 

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