No one has to be a rocket scientist to know that South Africa is in enormous crisis, especially with the recent Constitutional Court’s ruling on the serious compromises on our Constitution by both the President and the ruling majority party in Parliament.
Not surprisingly this has led first to an impeachment motion in Parliament, as well as a historic call from religious and civil society leaders for the President to step down. The ever-widening sense in the country is that corruption is endemic in South Africa and has the nation by its throat. So what should Christians do?
Clear prayer responsibility
Obviously, first of all there is a very clear prayer responsibility. AE in these last weeks has called the churches of Pietermaritzburg together for a citywide prayer meeting in the City Hall. Several hundred gathered to pray specifically for our country. We encourage you to do the same wherever you are. You could call a day of prayer for your church or even get the combined churches of your community to do the same sort of thing for your town or city. One church I know fairly regularly calls for 40 day chains of prayer. Another countrywide prayer initiative is organising 40 days of prayer leading up to two special prayer and reconciliation days which will take place on the 11th and 16th of June in Soweto. You can contact the organisers at 083 297 5792 if you feel led to participate. I hope to do so in the Orlando Stadium on the 11th.
In this we register Paul’s strong exhortation and priority that, “… prayers… be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Speaking prophetically to the State
Secondly, I believe the Church needs to speak prophetically to the State, even as it was required to do, and generally did, in the apartheid era. It has been well said that, “For evil to triumph it only requires that good people say nothing.” Therefore the Body of Christ, who should know His mind, His purpose and His will through His Word, needs to speak and live it out. We also remember how Moses confronted Pharaoh (Exodus 5:1-9), how prayerful Hannah confronted the mistaken accusations of Eli (1 Samuel 1:10-17), how Daniel confronted Belshazzar (Daniel 5: 17-28), how John the Baptist confronted Herod (Matthew 14:1-12), how the deacon Stephen confronted the Jews and their authorities (Acts 7) and of course Jesus Himself rebuking Herod and calling him “that fox” (Luke 13:32). We shouldn’t forget too that the early Christians profoundly confronted the Roman Caesars, and in refusing Emperor Worship paid for it with their lives.
It is essential that the Church remind the State that it is, as Romans 13 says, “God’s servant for the good of all” (v 4), and as such is not autonomous as a law unto itself. As a servant it has a transcendent and final moral accountability to God. This was lost in the apartheid era, and it has again been lost in the Zuma era. Thus Samuel Rutherford (1600-1621) could write in his famous treatise, Lex Rex (The Law is King) that if the king and government disobey the law they are to be challenged. Rutherford’s position was that the basic premise of civic government and therefore law, must be based on God’s Law, as given in the Bible, and as such, all people, even the king, are under the Law and not above it. Rutherford added that, “Tyranny is to be defined as ruling without the sanction of God.”
Finally the Church is therefore required again to call for all that righteousness demands from our political leaders, knowing as we do that, “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34), in other words lifts it up, whereas the corollary is equally true, that unrighteousness will take a nation downhill. That is now happening to us. So our South African Church, while primarily being very prayerful, also needs to be appropriately prophetic in these very troubled times.
Given what we have said above it is also incumbent on the Church to have its own spiritual and moral life in order so that its prophetic witness in society may have credibility. This is why the Apostle Peter emphasises, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).
This is why I think my book on The Church Jesus Prayed For has ongoing importance for what we are meant to look like as the Body of Christ. In this regard I am gratified that numbers of churches are still using my book for extended series on the ten marks our Lord prayed for, these marks being truth, holiness, joy, protection from evil supernaturalism, prayer, mission, unity, love, power and glory. I recently launched a ten-week series in a church in Pietermaritzburg, and will be repeating a similar exercise in Durban North, and yet another in Port Shepstone. Perhaps your church could also consider a series of studies like this or perhaps a home-group series. If you would like to order a copy of the book from us please contact Dave Rees at 033 347 7037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.