[I posted this earlier today on our church’s website]
At this critical junction of South African history we need thoughtful theological reflection on the major issues facing us. Almost everywhere conversations are taking place about the issues of emigration, crime, violence and other related issues like BEE and quotas in sport. What disturbs me most about these conversations is that the content and basic trajectories of the conversations are not different between Christ followers and those who are not professing to follow God.
This is of course due to the fact that we are experiencing the same external circumstances. Christians are not privy to an easier existence (contrary to some ‘theologies’). Yet there should be a marked difference in response – otherwise our following of Jesus has not changed us and is therefore useless and rendering us as un-useful.
Take the issue of emigration as an example. When Christ-followers are discussing the reasons for leaving the country and God is not mentioned once, can we not then say that their Christianity has not immersed them into a different narrative? I think so.
One of my dear friends is a self-professed agnostic. We meet weekly to do life together. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my week. He has a peculiar phrase that always strikes me as true in its wit. He delineates between Christians and those who practice Christianity as a hobby. Sometimes he’ll say “I know such and such a guy his Christianity is nothing more than a hobby.”
I believe that at this critical junction in our history there is an immense need for imagining what a Christ-follower, in contrast to a hobbyist, will do here in our country. To this end I would like to start a conversation.
Seasoned with salt and being salt
Our responses and our lives, to use a Jesus image, will have to be salted if we are to be of any good.
As a starting point let me paint two portraits; both involve a perpetrator and a victim:
A few weeks ago one of our Kleipot friends was in Cape Town for business. As she stopped at a certain intersection a small boy grabbed her phone out of her hand and ran away. She phoned her husband who told us to pray for her. As followers of Jesus we are called to not just pray for her, but astonishingly for our enemies as well! We did so. In doing this we reclaimed the humanity (in our eyes) of a twelve year old boy – we discussed the issues facing street children and were connected with a deeper narrative than this single incident.
Later in that week a similar incident took place in Boksburg. A man stopped at an intersection and a boy grabbed his phone. From here on out the stories diverge in radical fashion! The man jumped out of his car in order to accost the thief. As they ran the man fired a warning shot and the boy dropped the phone. The ‘victim’ of the crime ignored the phone, and continued in pursuit of the boy. After he caught him, he pointed a gun to his chest and killed him. The cycle thus went from perpetrator, victim towards a place where the victim became the new perpetrator.
Same circumstances, different outcomes.
Last week when I reflected with my friend about the incident that happened to his wife he told me this story. Then he said something that showed immense levels of theological reflection. He said to me that when he read about the man’s revenge killing he was reminded of the fact that Jesus said that he who hates, has also committed murder. The two stories show different trajectories, one towards love and forgiveness, the other towards hatred and murder. As followers of Jesus we simply have to imagine ways of living the way of love. If you want to read more about the other trajectory, read the responses of people on the boy’s death here.
I want to applaud my friend for his internalization of what happened to them, this kind of reflection is what is needed in our country. God, theology and our calling simply cannot be lived in the realm of hobby anymore. If it is we should rather get something that we can exercise with fewer restrictions.
What I propose is that we share our thoughts on this website and meet once a month to discuss the following issues (if you’re interested in being part of such a conversation please email me so that we can keep you informed regarding the venue).
– Should we ‘still’ apologize for Apartheid and if yes how?
– How do we have a Christian conversation about emigration?
– How do we love our enemy here in SA? What does it practically entail?
– What is a Christian response to affirmative action (BEE, quotas in sport etc…)
– Any other issues that you want to put on the table?