Zuma’s Interrupted Speech and the Reconciliation Storm

South Africa’s President Zuma was delivering the Reconciliation Day address when the warm sunny day turned into a huge storm that suddenly lifted the north side of the giant tent he was speaking in high into the air. As attendees fled for cover and Zuma’s bodyguards rushed the President to safety, everything was in chaos. 

Reconciliation Day is South Africa’s day of celebration of national reconciliation. Sadly, this national reconciliation falters as South Africa struggles through greed, crime and disunity. Ironically, Reconciliation Day arises on the day of the Battle of Blood River, where many Zulus lost their lives, and the formation of Mkhonto weSizwe (MK), a militant arm of the ANC. Neither event was an act of reconciliation but the day is to look forward to the future, rather than the past. 

As South Africa grapples with the legacy of racism in the daunting shadow of greed and crime, it is important to make a few observations. First, South Africa’s focus on reconciliation has been marked by human icons. From Mandela to the MK, human icons have dominated the political and social landscape in South Africa as it strives to make progress to what it sees as reconciliation. Second, reconciliation still seems poorly defined within public dialogue. To some it looks like separate traditional groups remaining separate but equal (how is this different to the old regime?).  Others think that the old ways impede progress and are willing to cast aside tradition for what they view as western progress. Another way reconciliation is poorly defined is by adding to the idea of ethnic reconciliation ideas of ‘social progress’ such as gay marriage, abortion and other social agendas. Third, the road to reconciliation is obscured by how reconciliation must be achieved and with whom. It is this last point that this article will concentrate.  

When we agree that reconciliation is required, we acknowledge that we were once alienated. Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations. To require restoration of friendly relations there must have been some falling out. Some animosity has come about but now they now want peace. Therefore the ‘who’ of reconciliation is enemies or alienated persons. 

Therefore, as South Africa strives for reconciliation it must ask itself whom have we alienated and how must we make peace? We need to keep three truths in mind.

The first truth that we need to keep in mind is that God “made from one man every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26). The Bible says God made each human group from one human common ancestor, unlike the evolutionary philosophy that claims humans have emerged from different nonhuman ancestors. Genetics has recently supported the Biblical viewpoint by showing that all humans have a single common human ancestor only some thousands of years ago. The false philosophy of evolution has supported racism and radical adherence to the Bible has refuted racism. Reconciliation of diverse ethnic groups depends on knowing and affirming the truth. The root of racism is found in false views about where we came from. Truth is the foundation if true unity. 

But the above passage does not simply stop there. It continues and gives us the purpose of God’s creation of various human ethnic groups. It goes on to say that He “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” We have found ourselves separated from God, but he wants us the find reconciliation with him. While “all have sinned”(Romans 3:23), “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2Corinthians5:19). This reconciliation with God means that the “dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14) is now broken down which once divided Jew and Gentile, Black and White from God. 

This reconciliation with God is desperately needed. “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent   because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” The storm that interrupted Zuma’s speech will be nothing compared with the “day on which he will judge the world”. We must be reconciled with God before he returns to judge. God’s judgment will come more suddenly than the storm that surprised the President. You can’t delay and you don’t know when it will come. 

If reconciliation is to be meaningful and real, it must begin with making peace with God. Thankfully Jesus settled the dispute on the cross when he paid the penalty of our trespasses and rose again defeating death, the primary symptom of sin. Since God commands everyone everywhere to “repent”, let us turn to God through Jesus his Son. Abandon your sins and trust in Jesus.  

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