Living Social Justice

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Archive for the tag “Christ”

Christ, Madiba and Reconciliation

How far are we from realising Madiba’s dream of a reconciled nation? According to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, we’re further from it than we may think. Sindiso Mnisi Weeks shares her heartbreak and her hope.

Last week I cried numerous times. It started on Thursday morning when news of the latest Institute for Justice and Reconciliation‘s (IJR) reconciliation survey results were publicised reflecting devastating findings amidst some hopeful ones.

What really got me was the finding that, of the white people surveyed, 40% disagreed with the declaration that “The Apartheid government wrongly oppressed the majority of South Africans.”

I wept.

I wept just as I weep through every movie about slavery, colonialism and apartheid, wondering how it is possible for the humanity of black people to have ever been worth so little to some and when the suffering of people of colour in this world will end.

Though I’ve seen many distressingly ahistorical comments made by (white) people on News24 and other such sites, I’ve tried to comfort myself that, firstly, it’s people with radically unfavourable views who are more likely to comment on any news site and, secondly, they’re really the minority. This survey says that they are likely a significant minority and that’s scary and extremely sad to me. How, almost 20 years after the sheer brutality of apartheid officially ended, could some South Africans still think that it was not wrong?

While my heart was still bleeding from this news, I learned with shock that Nelson Mandela had died … uTata was gone! I could not suppress the uncontrollable tears as my mind registered the irony in Madiba – who had suffered and defied some of apartheid’s worst injustices – dying on the same day that the IJR reported that some among us thought it wasn’t a bad thing.

Madiba was dead. And the IJR reported that reconciliation in South Africa was, in some ways, a failure. After all, as the IJR reported, at this time, more South Africans have little or no contact with people of different races in their day-to-day lives than do have such contact on a regular or constant basis.

With most black South Africans still being poor and confined to impoverished townships and rural areas and more than 73% of white people living in the two highest economic brackets (according to the living standards measure), there isn’t much intermingling. Therefore, the ability of improvements in class to simultaneously increase interracial interaction is unable to work its necessary magic.

And, as if that weren’t bad enough, tragically, only 27% of white people (compared with much higher proportions of other race groups) reported that they were interested in learning more about the cultures of other groups, and only 11.7% of white people (again, the lowest of all race groups) said they desired more interaction with people of other races.

So, you see, connecting the IJR report and Madiba’s death, I could not help but weep. Madiba was our primary, national symbol of reconciliation. Did that mean that South Africa’s hope of succeeding at this evidently near-impossible task was dead?

Previously, I blogged about how I came to marry my ‘umlungu’. What is glaringly absent from that account as we remember Nelson Mandela is the fact that Madiba and his comrades were a large part of making that happen. Were it not for Madiba’s unrelenting commitment to my freedom as a black person in South Africa, I could not have matriculated from a good enough school to enable me to then later study in the UK where I met my ‘mlungu’, Dan and I could not have been married in South Africa and we certainly could not have lived there together, freely, and openly these last two years. The Immorality Act would have rendered our love a crime.

Regardless of how grateful I am to uTata, however, our hope as South Africans is not in Madiba – not by a long shot. Though he lived a life that reflected God’s forgiveness, grace, commitment to justice and love, as his many, self-professed mistakes and death at the ripe old age of 95 remind us, he too was a mortal man.

As Christians – and the whole world – our hope is in Christ. He is ultimately the only one who can reconcile us. And he is committed to doing so, if only we will allow Him.

As Ephesians 2: 14-16 tells us, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

Galatians 3: 26-28 also says, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A silver lining can be pointed to in that, as the IJR survey reports, over 67% of South Africans of all creeds place great confidence in religious institutions. Thus, though the Church is made up of fallible human beings, it is God’s primary, chosen vehicle for delivering hope to an otherwise hopeless world and there is room for it to do so in South Africa.

The IJR concludes that what is needed to remedy our ‘unreconciledness’ is ‘radical reconciliation’. What can be more radical than this message of reconciliation in the Bible?!

We desperately need Christ’s reconciliation to come to South Africa, a place that needs it in many ways more than any other. Particularly during this period of remembering Madiba’s sacrifice, which coincides with the season in which we remember Christ’s even greater sacrifice, I think that South African Christ followers need to speak that message loud and clear – in words and in deeds.

– Sindiso Mnisi Weeks is a senior researcher at the Centre for Law and Society at UCT. She and her husband, Daniel, were members of the Common Ground Church Rondebosch AM congregation until recently relocating to the USA. 

P.S. Related read: A Man Who Wasn’t Afraid to Shake Things Up

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On finding the perfect gift… and missing the point

Presents, food, tinsel, more food and more presents. In a society where Christmas is driven by consumerism, Julie Williams shares how she and her family will go counter-culture this year by putting Christ at the centre of their celebrations. 

Photo Credit: Shandi-lee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shandi-lee via Compfight cc

If you’re hoping to find a blog post berating Father Christmas as the anti-Christ and linking his poor reindeer to hell’s apocalyptic horsemen, let me save you the time. Regrettably for you, this is not that post.

In fact, I am particularly fond of Christmas and all its pagan traditions. The Christmas tree, the gifts under it, the fake mistletoe, and good old Father Christmas. When I look back on my childhood, it is punctuated with happy memories of this time of year. Believing in Father Christmas (for a few brief years) did not make me lose all trust in my parents or create an inextricable pull towards the occult (that came later, after watching Harry Potter). Jokes aside, if I’m honest, I’m not so sure that everything that comes with the festive season is all together festive or healthy…

Like our collective irrational desire to get more. More tinsel, more of those nuts that everybody seems to have in their homes that you have to crack yourself, more crackers (seriously, has anyone in the history of forever, ever pulled something out of an over-priced cracker that was worth keeping? Even just until pudding?), more stuff we think we really need but really don’t, more stuff that our kids really don’t need, and a whole lot more food.

Like most of you, I also like to give more too… I write lists of the most thoughtful gifts for my loved ones and then spend loads of energy and time tracking those things down. And in the process, taking my credit card limit to new heights (or lows according to one less festive spouse, but nobody asked him to write a blog post fortunately).

I love it – all of it. Even the end of January toast and baked beans that are bound to follow. But over the last few years, as I skip around crowded shopping centres that seem full of irritable people, I have been wondering, am I missing the point? Worse still, am I perpetuating this missing of the point onto the next generation now that I have minions, I mean, kids?

I’m a Christ-follower, and I know what the real meaning of Christmas is, but in the actual day-to-day busyness of life, it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. Or in this case, the Christ in the chaos. As someone who loves Jesus, this should primarily be a time to celebrate his arrival. That means putting down the fairy lights and shopping lists for a second and reflecting on what that actually means.

What should we be celebrating at Christmas? That God put skin on: That the Maker of the Universe who holds everything together, whose hands span the galaxies, let go of all of that to become a tiny, helpless babe. He gave up his riches to become poor for us. All because of love. Christmas is about celebrating the ultimate downgrade. It’s about reveling in the ultimate gift – not a flattering outfit or entertaining toy – but a person. A Saviour who satisfies our weary souls like no ipod, gift voucher or glazed ham ever could.

I’m really not wanting to rain on anyone’s festive parade. I’m just calling for a bit of perspective. Like the thin layer of icing above the fruit cake – all of our traditions should be small and inconsequential beside Christ this Christmas.

How will we practically do this? You get to work that out in your own life. But this is what we’re doing differently this holiday season…

A debt of love, minus the debt.

We’re going to spend less on gifts. Not because we love our family and friends less, but because going into debt to show how much we care is just really dumb. And because despite what advertising tells us, the perfect gift to give this Christmas doesn’t cost a cent – it’s our time and love. When it comes to our own kids and gifts, I stumbled across this list a year ago and found it super helpful. Our kids get four things each: Something to read, something they need, something to wear, something to play with. They really do need new shoes and swimming costumes, and cultivating a love of reading is a priority for us, so really, they’re getting one ‘real’ gift, but don’t tell them that! We think it’s also important for them to realize that everything they get is a gift and not a right, even the necessary things.

Santa’s our little helper, not the other way around.

We’re not hyping Father Christmas up as the hero of the story. He’s a side act to the real show. How do our kids know this? By virtue of the fact that he gives the smallest gifts every year. Not the biggest.

Christ-centred Christmas traditions.

We’re early in our journey as a family. But we want to better reflect Christ’s love in this time. So we spend time shopping and putting together Care for the Carer gifts, and on Christmas evening, we have a time of reflection together, we talk about the day and look at all the things we got given, than we pray together and thank God for our gifts, and especially for the BEST gifts of all, Christ and his great love for us. The day after Christmas, as a kind of detox, we give each of them a box and ask them to give away some of their good-quality toys and clothes to bless others.

This may sound very Brady Bunch, but the reality is, our kids will probably be climbing all over the couch while we’re praying on Christmas night, and wailing like somebody is wanting them to donate a vital organ when they have to part with some of their things the next morning. It’s not going to be all that festive, but then again, maybe that’s not the point. It certainly wasn’t Christ’s.

Julie Williams is a part-time freelance copywriter, mother of three and pastor’s wife. She serves on the Common Ground Church leadership team together with her husband, Terran.

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Show love Like Julie, you too can make this Christmas more meaningful. Our ‘Show Love This Christmas’ campaign offers a few ways you can make a real difference in the lives of those who are vulnerable and in need. For more information on how you can get involved, click here.

Let’s Care for Carers this Christmas

Tinsel in shop windows is just one tell tale sign that the festive season is upon us, but what if this year we took the focus off all the sparkly stuff and celebrated the people Jesus would want us to celebrate?

Carers - March '11 007

A carer from Westlake United Church Trust making a home visit to a client

The World makes much of the rich and famous, celebrating success, excess and triviality, but as Christ-followers, we need to ask, “Who would Jesus be hailing as the real heroes?”

Across Cape Town there are thousands of men and women who devote their lives to caring for the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth then by celebrating these unsung heroes who serve those in need in our City so sacrificially every day? 

On Saturday, 23 November, Common Ground Church will host our third annual Care for the Carer event. At the event 150 caregivers will be honoured and treated to inspirational talks, delicious snacks, gifts and entertainment.

Carers and volunteers at last year's event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

Carers and volunteers at last year’s event strike a pose in the fun photo booth

“This one pamper day means more to me than words could ever describe – I now know that I’m loved and cared for, and what I do as a carer is appreciated and noticed. I’m also so deeply moved to know that people from Common Ground Church are thinking of and praying for me,” says Veronica Weiers, a carer who has attended our two previous Care for the Carer events and who will be pampered at this year’s event again.

There are two main ways you can support this event:

1. Team up with your small group and purchase a gift bag for R120.

This will cover the cost for a carer to attend the event. Inside the bag, you’ll find the profile of your carer to help you pray for them, write them an encouraging card, and fill their gift bag with treats to the value of R100.

Your small group should be discussing the Care for the Carer gift bags this week, so why not chat to your small group leader or champ about how you can help get your group involved?

If you are stirred to purchase a separate bag from your small group, speak to your champ and visit the Common Ground Involvement Desk after the service on Sunday. All bags need to be returned to the Common Good involvement desk on Sun, 17 November.

2. You can also sign up to volunteer at the event.

You will need to be available to serve on Saturday, 23 November, from 10h00 to 12h30. You can volunteer as a member of the events team, as a table host, or as a driver (to transport carers to and from the venue).

Sign up at the Common Good Involvement Desk on Sunday, 3 November, or email us.

This is such a great way to serve those who give their lives in service to others.

Have you watched the Care for the Carer video?

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Show loveShow Love This Christmas

Care for the Carer is just one way to get involved in our ‘Show Love’ campaign! You can also purchase Give Hope gift cards which will support various Common Good initiatives.

These cards will be on sale at the Common Good Involvement Desk after Sunday meetings or from the Common Ground cafe during the week. For other ideas, pick up our Christmas PlugIn Sheet from the Common Good Involvement Desk. More updates to come!

Could we be the hope of the world?

What if we are God’s solution to the world’s brokenness? Common Ground Church pastor Ryan TerMorshuizen shares why he believes the local church is the hope of the world.

I heard a statistic a while ago that stated that the person you are is pretty much determined by the age of 13. Thirteen? Really?

The research, conducted by the Barna Group, went on to state that there are only three major factors that will cause you to change after this age. The first is if you have a true desire to change, the second is if you’re in a community, which provides an environment for change, and the third is what they called “acts of God”.

It hit me like a wave. Who better to provide those three things than the local church?

Suddenly, I realised that the local church is the ultimate environment for change because it’s where the gospel brings a real understanding of our identity, our purpose, and our destiny – calling us to change.

And not only is it the perfect community to come alongside those with a desire for change, it is also in the local church where we can have the greatest expectation for the miraculous ‘acts of God’ in ours and other peoples’ lives.

This was such a huge moment for me where everything fell into place. I committed myself freshly to the mission of the church, not because of the pay check but because I wanted to be part of bringing this message and building this community of change.

The lights had gone on for me. The church really is the hope of the world.

That’s quite a statement.

Yes, it is. And I hope a few of you are now asking yourselves, “But isn’t Jesus the hope of the world?”

And of course he is! The only reason I can say that the church is the hope of the world is because Jesus is the true and ultimate ‘hope of the world’ and the church is called to represent him.

One day he will return and reveal himself in fullness but until then he has chosen to link himself to human instrumentality and use us – his church – to spread this good news and point people towards him.

And so we, the church, become the hope of the world in our time.

Why the church?

The word ‘church’ is a loaded one that means many different things to different people. So it’s important to clarify that when I talk about the ‘church’ I’m not referring to a building or an organisation.

As Christ-followers, we are all ‘scattered’ as the church into our many different communities, families and work places, while still being grafted into the greater body of Christ. And there is also the ‘local’ or ‘gathered’ church, which is a gathering of believers in a certain area under a specific leadership team of biblically mandated elders and deacons.

William Temple wrote that, “The church is the only cooperative society that exists for the benefit of its non-members.”

Almost everywhere in the Bible, evangelism and social concern go hand in hand. When we look at the life of Christ we see that Jesus held in tension a relationship between evangelism and social concern. It is said that he went about both “teaching and preaching” and also “doing good and healing”.

That’s why the local church becomes the hope of the world, not just in the redemptive potential of people being healed and transformed by the love of Christ, but also in the redemptive potential of Christ-followers being ignited with a passion to restore justice and love one another in a way that brings human flourishing to all.

We are the hope of the world.

When we see the brokenness and despair in the world, it’s tempting to ask “What is the church doing to fix this?” or “Why isn’t the church involved here?”

We should be cautious not to shift the responsibility off our shoulders and onto the shoulders of local church leaders and the church as an establishment.

The role of the leadership team of the local church is to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4: 12).

But ultimately we, as individual Christ-followers, are the church wherever we are and we are called to live out our faith in very practical ways.

What does this mean for us as individuals?

By saying that we are Christ-followers, we are saying that we are the incarnational, “sent” ones. We are the ones who, like Christ, go out.

We are the ones who leave behind privilege and comfort, just as Christ left behind the splendour of Heaven, to go into our earth, to make ourselves lowly amongst others in order that we may serve, teach and give our lives for them.

Once we start to see that each individual has an intrinsic value as created by God then we will count it a privilege to serve and do everything in our power to bring hope to human life.

Christ is ultimately the hope of the world, but until his return he has commissioned us to bring his hope into the world by living our lives in a way that continually points to him.

If we will fully take on this responsibility and get involved wherever we can to bring Christ’s wisdom and love into everything we’re a part of, then we’ll begin to see true transformation happening in our city.

– Ryan oversees the Common Ground Church base staff team, as well as the leadership team of Common Ground Bosch AM. He is married to Kate and they have three children. 

What are some practical ways you can bring hope to the lives of those around you – particularly those who are in need?

A Hope That Never Runs Dry

How do we still hope when all earthly reason for hope is gone? Beverly Draper reflects on why self-reliance and positive-thinking can only take you so far.

There have been many occasions when I have been confronted with situations where people have lost hope. As a medical doctor, most often it has been in the context of an incurable disease and certain death. Paul was in his thirties when he was referred to the oncology clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital where I was working. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer but the doctors told him that he should not worry; the specialists would be able to treat it. He arrived in a very positive frame of mind and after the first round of chemotherapy, he did really well and resumed work. But a few weeks later, he started to get sick again and at his follow up visit it was obvious on his X-Ray that the tumour in his lung was growing and was now larger than ever and was spreading to other parts of his body.He was devastated because he believed that he had come to oncology for a cure.

One afternoon, he called me and asked me to come to his home in Pinelands. I arrived to find a man broken and confused. He asked me to level with him, knowing that I was a Christ-follower and that I would speak the truth. I told him that short of a miracle, he was certainly going to die in the not too distant future. I watched as Paul slowly moved his focus of hope from a medical cure and restoration of his physical health to hope of eternal life in Christ. He was able to find peace and place himself and his family in God’s hands, no matter whether he lived or died.

People who are self-reliant believe that their own talent, intellect, resources and connections provide hope for a future that holds the same or even better friends and family, education and the security of material possessions. In other words, they place their hope in things that make them ‘happy’. It is a hope that is earned rather than given. Many believe that a code of morality will bring security, or having a positive attitude will bring good things. Hope is placed in doctors, teachers, housing officials, employers or even government authorities to improve circumstances. Often this may happen – people get cured, promoted, receive bursaries or get paid out what is due to them. But where does one go when all hope is gone?

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