Tag Archives: Good News
This Easter we decided to try express the death and resurrection outside the walls of a church building or the confines of a church service.
It was a low-key time of meeting with brokenness and neglected people as we followed Gods spirit into the streets. We cleaned streets and parks as a sign of restoration and new life. We ate together as a sign of restored community. We walked the streets praying, listening to God and learning from those we met. We asked God to show us where to serve as we looked to the future. We learned fresh things from Scripture because of our experiences on the streets.
We discovered the mix of people in the East City area all over again. The division between races and classes. The hatred towards us cleaning the streets and the appreciation for us doing it. We saw the brokenness, the solidarity, the escapism, the hopelessness, the laughter and the lies. We saw our community with fresh eyes and listened with hopeful ears. We mapped the area and discovered more about what is happening – good and bad. We prayed for people and shared the Jesus who came to transform the mess in the world at Easter.
It was a good Easter.
Some Practical Considerations:
We must never make the mistake of imagining that bringing people together simply means, hanging out under the same roof or in the same space, interspersed with some pleasantries. To be a church that truly is good news to Cape Town, that brings people together in a manner that can be described as “one new man”, will involve more than people of different cultures gathering in the same building once or twice a week. Even unbelievers do that regularly in restaurants, workplaces, sports events, malls or coffee shops (Matthew 6:46-47).
It will require something of us – a laying down of our lives, our cultural idols, our preferences, our way of doing things, in order to truly understand, love and serve our brothers and sisters. It will require us to eat together, spend time together, be in each others homes, with each others families, to pray together, study the Word together, engage on mission together.To learn to celebrate and enjoy the things which the other enjoys or celebrates. We will have to learn grace, mercy, self-sacrifice and open, honest-discourse if this is to happen. We cannot simply expect it to happen we must be intentional about it!
This will require:
a) Our hearts must want it, work for it, pursue it. In many ways the external actions are incidental to a changed heart that desperately wants to see the gospel reality that the divided walls have been destroyed embodied in the community of God’s people. Discussions of the externals in this forum become irrelevant then, all that counts is that we love our neighbour as ourselves – and follow wherever that takes us.
b) Perseverance: We cannot give up easily – this task is not for the faint-hearted, we will hurt, offend and misunderstand one another, together we must seek grace and forgiveness
c) Time: We must not be fooled into thinking that a couple of meetings in a week and suddenly we are having community. We must be prepared to “waste time” just hanging out with each other, laughing with each other, telling our stories and being together. In order for real community to be fostered, for us to really begin talking to one another we have to be spending time with one another.
Somehow out of the melting pot of hours and days and quick coffees and lazy braais and long walks there begins to emerge a “oneness”, an understanding of one another that is built on relationship. So that when we hit the hard cultural and racial issues we are dealing with these in the context of relationship. That is very different to trying to work that out with people who are functional strangers.
d) Space: The context in which this reconciliation must happen must be mutual – we must both enter each others worlds and experience, question and learn, know where we live, grew up, what we eat. Too much of this kind of community has happened on “white turf”. We must move it into the townships, Cape Flats and rural areas if we are to truly be “one new humanity”
e) Prayer: Only God can do this – left to our own devices we will fail. But we must pray for this with the passion and perseverance of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-5). Lord we will not stop until you work in and among us and make us these people together!
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The apostle Paul writing about relationships between the Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2 has this to say:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (v14)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (v14-16, 19-22 edited)
To believe the gospel is not simply to give mental assent to some rational truths that you agree with (it is certainly not less than this). To believe the gospel is to hear the word of declaration of the arrival of God’s King and his means of salvation and to join your life with His Story. It is the Great Story whose aim is the glory of God and whose plot is the restoration of true humanity.
When the gospel is at work among his people in South Africa we ought to see the church, in part and yet in significant ways, overcoming these issues. We ought to see churches bringing people of different races, cultures and socio-economic classes together in the gospel.
The desire of our nation, reflected in the talk of our politicians and thought leaders is for meaningful racial reconciliation. But for all that talk we have made little progress. We may work in the same buildings, ride the same trains or even attend the same churches but at the end of the day we go home to our own communities, by and large populated by “people like us”.
We may exchange small talk and pleasantries or even engage in rigorous professional or academic debate but what do we say when our guard is down and there are only people like us left? I am frequently shocked by other white people “taking me into their confidence” with the assumption that I too am like them and will concur with their frustrations and prejudices.
What of the church? If there is any place that racial reconciliation ought to be succeeding it is in the church. The gospel gives me reason to lay down my privilege, my grudges, my cultural distinctives, my personal preferences, my history and together stand at the foot of the cross amazed at the grace of Jesus. Jesus, who though he was so very different from us, became like us, in order to redeem us.
Jesus who died for us so that we might live, be forgiven and adopted into his family. Jesus whose resurrection life has broken out into the world breaking down the dividing wall of hostility (through his own body) and creating in himself one new man, thus bringing about the shalom (peace) of God. That would surely look and be good news to our divided and broken nation.
In Revelation 7:9-10 the Kingdom of God in it’s fullness is revealed as a heaving multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people. And this united, restored humanity is directly linked to the gospel (v10).
“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
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In Mark 1:15 Jesus declares that “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming the good news or gospel that the Kingdom of God was near. God’s Kingdom was coming because God’s King was coming.
But how is the Kingdom of God good news? For most of us today the arrival of a King to rule over us does not sound like good news at all! We want to be free, no kind of rule sounds like good news.
And this was the lie of Satan way back in the Garden of Eden when the Serpent portrayed God as a tyrant, holding us back, keeping the best for himself. But God is not a tyrant – his rule is one of freedom, mercy, love, justice, life, blessing and peace.
King Jesus comes both to demonstrate to us the goodness of living under the reign of God and to set us free from our self-imposed exile from God and slavery to the tyrannical rule of sin. The church (the people of God) looks forward to a glorious future that God has promised us in Christ. But the story of the Bible is that this Kingdom has now broken in and is at work saving and restoring a people. Where the good and gracious reign of King Jesus can be seen. In the church we find a taste of what it means to be truly human… again.
It is the gospel which answers the deepest and most noble aspirations of our society. It is the gospel which satisfies the restless longing of our souls, the residual image of God in man, marred but not forever lost. The church as the foretaste of restored humanity demonstrates to the world (through the goodness of their lives together) that their good desires and aspirations are satisfied only in Jesus. The church declares to the world in word and deed that it is good to live under the reign of King Jesus.
What could it mean for the gospel to be “good news” to South Africa today?
Issues of race have been an even more contentious issue in South Africa over the last few months. From models tweeting, artists painting, students FaceBooking , bloggers blogging, politicians marching and presidents suing issues of race have been a hot topic in social media forums lately. Christians have not been exempt from these issues and sadly enough have mostly just been a PG-rated mirror of the attitudes emanating from their respective communities.
We live in a county that eighteen years into democracy remains heavily divided along racial and economic lines. How is it that the gospel can be seen as good news to South Africa? For make no mistake, if we have a gospel that has nothing to say to this issue in our time, in our country – then we have an impotent gospel!
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