That is the question our faith community explored for the last few weeks. Two areas that stood out for us are racism and economics.
We cannot read Acts, and especially the first two chapters without seeing the wide-ranging challenge of the Spirit to move the Jewish followers of Jesus beyond their racial and ethnic identities. Acts 1:8 doesn’t only talk about the geographical expansion of the gospel from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world. It also touches on the crossing of ethnic/racial boundaries that were strongly erected in the Jewish Christian’s minds. Within post-Apartheid South Africa racism (even among Christians) are rampant. The Holy Spirit’s power helps us to overcome racism and to face the reality of what has happened and what can happen in South Africa. First in terms of what has happened, de Gruchy notes that:
The reluctance of many whites in South Africa to acknowledge some guilt for apartheid, or even to accept the fact that we are beneficiaries of what was an unjust system, is still something that has to be dealt with if national reconciliation is to become a reality. (p195)
Therefore, can we move thru the season of Pentecost without facing the enormous challenge of racism in our country?
The economic sharing found as a symptom of a Spirit-empowered church at the end of Acts 2 poses deep challenges to our post-apartheid system. In a very simplistic way one can say that the majority op the beneficiaries of apartheid are white. Most of the wealth would then still be in the hands of the white segment of society (a statement that is backed up by statistics SA).
In a country like ours reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness and restitution.
In the process of the Spirit’s empowerment to move beyond racial/ethnic boundaries, the Spirit also empowers us to share our economics as a sign of a new brother – and sisterhood. When our racism is worked on we gain new family members and become a new family. Families share resources.
It is not something that is forced, it flows out of a tapestry weaved by the Spirit. I have personal stories of this. Since 2003 the Spirit has empowered a few friends to work on our issues of race and economics between people living in the suburbs and living in the squatter camps. As we’ve shared our homes and lives with people who are other, we’ve experienced something of the power of the Spirit.
Acts 1-2 challenges me deeply in our South African context. I cannot stay silent anymore when the Spirit’s work is interpreted as a hocus-pocus magic show to bring signs and wonders for the beneficiaries of a corrupt system.
If the Spirit blew those disciples into these race/economic issues how can we follow His blowing today?
Gruchy, J.D., 2002. Reconciliation: Restoring Justice, Augsburg Fortress Publishers.