Ok – I’m going to stick my neck out here and perhaps say some controversial things, and possibly some things that I have no right to say. Please challenge me on this. However my desire is that it provokes discussion and some serious thought, even if the conclusions are different to what I write below…

Here goes…

Hopefully it will not have escaped your notice that there is some horrific violence going on at the moment in South Africa, and it seems to be spreading around the country. Foreigners, that is other Africans, are being targeted it seems for taken jobs that mean locals are unemployed. The violence that has resulted is sickening.

I’m just in a conversation with JP Scheepers (his surname isn’t pronounced how you might think, as I found out recently!) about the situation. We both feel its a wonderful opportunity for the church to stand up and get involved in a practical way and bringing healing through the gospel. During apartheid some churches took an ‘apolitical’ stance. This meant that they did not get involved with what was happening, but chose instead to focus on ‘preaching the gospel’ (something not to be neglected!). But that seems to be as far as it went. During the Truth and Reconciliation hearings of the 1990’s this approach was apologised for.

My concern is that evangelical Christians are not going to be at the forefront of change in SA. For all the talk of the gospel, for all the commitment to the gospel, it is not going to show itself in people demonstrating the barrier destroying, people uniting nature of the gospel (see Ephesians 2).

This seems to me to be a great opportunity for evangelical Christians in SA to put their actions where their mouths are. Do we really believe that Christ draws people together across racial lines? Do we believe that so much that we are willing to take in people into our homes, eat with them, let them rest in our houses, maybe even shelter them when things get really hot? Are Christians in SA going to be known for protecting the foreigners, since the Christians know what it is to be a foreigner? Are Christians in SA going to be known as people who put their own safety on the line for people from a foreign land who they have no earthly reason to protect?

There is a lot of fear in South Africa at the moment. It seems to be fear that is driving this violence. But it is also fear that is paralysing so many Christians into inaction.

Maybe this is easy for me to say sitting in safe comfortable England. No doubt that that is the case. But the gospel has its challenges for us here and I need other Christians to challenge me when I’m not letting the gospel impact my safety and security and comfort.

However this is my challenge now to any South African’s reading this. Are you going to stand up and be different? When the stories of these difficult times are told in years to come will the name of Christ keep coming up? Perhaps it will. But let it not come up in the question ‘where were the Christians?’

Cry, the Beloved Country.

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