Will South Africa be OK after Mandela?
We gather here in Tembisa in our thousands, from all around Joburg, 19 years after the birth of the new South Africa, 8 years after the birth of Godfirst Church, and 3 days after Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday. Nkululeko, who pastor's GodfirstTembisa, said to me, "If it wasn't for how God used Mandela we would not be doing our Together Sunday". My message today is entitled, Will South Africa be OK after Mandela? The answer to this question will be a resounding yes, so long as three things continue to happen:
- An on going lifestyle of apology
- An on going lifestyle of forgiveness
- An on going faith in God
An on going lifestyle of apology
Jesus said in Matt 5:23 (Message Translation):
If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then come back and work things out with God.
Today we are at our place of worship. But before I bring my offering of a sermon, I am remember that some of you might have a grudge against me, or against my forefathers. So, before I continue preaching, I must go to you and make things right. Maybe your grudge is this: that although you have forgiven me (or are trying to forgive me and my forefathers) for apartheid, maybe you never actually heard me or us say "sorry". Or maybe you did once or twice, but once or twice does not feel enough.
Fellow South Africans, as wonderful as our transition into the new SA was, it happened so fast that maybe there wasn't enough time for apologies to be said and heard. Both blacks and whites were working so hard to ensure their future in the New SA, that maybe there was not enough time to speak honestly about the past. And President Mandela and the first democratically elected government worked so hard and fast to graciously reassure white people of their place in the New SA, that some argue that the Whites never gave a clear enough, or long enough, or deep enough, apology. So if you are holding a grudge anything like that against me, then I say this to you: I/we are so sorry for our role in making the Old SA what it was, and we will try to live a life that illustrates that apology.
We know from the Gospel that it is important to repent with your mouth and heart, but to then live a lifestyle of repentance. In terms of my new life in God, I entered it through me repenting and God forgiving. But as I continue in my new life in God, when I do wrong I keep repenting and God keeps forgiving. We continue as we began. Similarly, together we entered the New South Africa through some of us repenting and some of us forgiving. We must continue as we began with ongoing repentance and forgiveness towards each other. This doesn't mean grovelling, nor does it literally mean saying "sorry" or saying "I forgive you", although from time to time we need to actually do that. It means this: continue to live a lifestyle of "I am sorry" and "I forgive you".
And Christ-followers should lead the way in this, because we are experts in saying sorry (because we are aware of our sinful nature), and experts in saying I forgive you (because those who have been forgiven much, love much). Our nation will be okay after Mandela if we keep living a lifestyle of apology and forgiveness.
An on going lifestyle of forgiveness
And after Mandela we must still be known for forgiveness. Look what we learn about forgiveness from Jesus in Matthew 18:
Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother? Seven? Jesus said, "No. 77 times". Jesus said, " The kingdom of heaven is like a king who had a servant who owed him R10million. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees and begged him for mercy. The King took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
The forgiven servant then found a friend who owed him R10 000, and took him by the throat, and threatened him to repay the R10 000. The King heard about this, and said to him: 'You wicked servant, I canceled your debt because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' And he threw the man in jail until he repaid R10m." And Jesus said (Verse 35) "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Jesus is not saying "if you forgive people you will go to heaven", because that would contradict everything the Bible teaches about us being saved by grace rather than our own good works, or good attitudes. So, it is possible to be a forgiving person yet not go to heaven. Rather Jesus is saying that if you think you are going to heaven, but don't forgive people, then think again about going to heaven!
Imagine there are two apple trees side by side in summer. If one has apples, and the other doesn't, we assume this tree is healthy and alive and this one is sick or dead. The fruit doesn't give the tree life, rather it reveals whether the tree has life. Jesus is saying that if you think you are an apples tree (a Christian), but you are not bearing apples (the fruit of forgiveness), then maybe you not an apple tree (a Christian). He is saying to the so-called Christian, if you do not forgive others, that is sign that you have not really received the forgiveness of God. If you do not show mercy to others, then you can't have yourself received God's mercy. Sure, sometimes forgiveness can take time, and it is often hard, but if you cannot get to the place of forgiveness, you can't have received the true Gospel. Why? Because there is such massive motivation in the Gospel to help us forgive others: Your Heavenly King forgave you of your R10million debt! Anyone's offense to you, as big and painful as it may be, is comparatively so much smaller than the debt you were forgiven by God. The motivation we have within the Gospel to forgive others is huge.
Christ-following South African brothers and sisters, let us keep living a lifestyle of apology and forgiveness, empowered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
An on going faith in God
The Bible teaches that God is Sovereign over the nations. It is therefore appropriate as citizens of this nation to humbly honour God for His role over the affairs of this nation, and place our faith ultimately in Him for the future of this nation.
Thank God for rulers, governments and political parties, but Isaiah 40:23-24 says that rulers appear like a plant, but the next day whither and are gone. The ANC, the DA, and Mandela will not be around for ever, but our Sovereign God will.
Thank God for nations, but Isaiah 40:15 says that our nation is like a drop of water before God, like dust on the scales. This doesn't mean that we are insignificant, rather that God is fully sovereign over our nation, and will always get His way. How comforting. Isaiah 40:9 tells us to "Behold our God". I am not exactly sure what "behold" means, but the last two thirds of the word are "hold", so lets go with that. Are you holding onto anything other than God? Your bank balance? The rate of inflation? A political party? The status quo? Certainly live responsibly in those areas, but hold onto God more than anything or anyone else. Are you holding onto President Mandela? Rather hold onto the President of All Presidents. Behold your God.
Let us pray together now for God's on going mercy on our nation.
Here is a great video tribute to Nelson Madela from PJ: