ALF JAMES writes that at the very heart of a call to South Africans to gather on a farm near Bloemfontein to pray against violence and crime in our nation is a call for believers to come together not as blacks or whites, rich or poor, or a language group — but as brothers and sisters in Christ united by His love.
The love of God for man manifested in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son to save us sinners by the washing away of our iniquities with His innocent blood is the love that we are called to extend to our fellow believers no matter their race, gender, culture, class, language, tribe, nationality, or denomination.
It is this love of God for Jesus and for us that unites and defines us — we are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ, not white or black, rich or poor, Afrikaans or Xhosa, English or Zulu — we are first and last children of God.
National day of prayer against violent crime
It is in the power of this unifying love of Christ that we are called to a National Day of Prayer against violent crime by Angus Buchan on April 22, for without being of one accord in one place, unified by the love of Christ and praying in His name in faith, our prayers will not result in God’s will being done according to our supplications.
The importance Jesus places on His love for us and our love for each other is revealed in His expression of it as a directive: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34) and His emphasis of it by restatement in John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
According to Andrew Murray in his book Abide in Christ, this love of Jesus is the great evidence of the reality of the new covenant, of the power of the new life revealed in Christ.
He says it is the one convincing and indisputable token of discipleship: By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”
Murray says that in our daily dealings with one another, Christians are making a display to God, to angels and to men; and in the Christlikeness of our love for each other, we are to prove what kind of spirit we are made of.
“Amid all diversity of character or of creed, of language or of station, they are to prove that love has made them members of one body, and of each other and has taught them to forget and sacrifice self for the sake of the other.
“Their life of love is the chief evidence of Christianity, the proof to the world that God sent Christ and that He has shed abroad in them the same love with which He loved Christ.
“Of all the evidence of Christianity, this is the mightiest and most convincing,” says Murray.
Called to display unifying love of Christ
This unifying love of Christ and presence of the Holy Spirit that was displayed in the first Christian Church of Acts, is the love that we are called on to display at the National Day of Prayer against violent crime and thereafter.
Although living under the persecution of the Sanhedrin after Jesus’ resurrection, the followers of Christ in Acts were of one accord and continued to witness boldly and minister powerfully among the people performing many signs and wonders.
We are told in Acts 2:44-46 that, … all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those were being saved.
If the body of Christ is to act in the same power as the first Christian Church of Acts then it is requisite of us to be together in one accord as followers of Christ on April 22 with the same emphasis on being brothers and sisters sharing responsibility for each other in Christ as the Church of Acts did.
Reverend Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa agrees that it is only by uniting in Christ that South Africans will rise above the divisions of race, class, tribe, and language, and overcome violence in our land.
“Christians of different races, classes, nationalities and ethnicities are invited by Christ to deepen their sense of who they are in Him, which is a very deep Christian calling.
“It is only through a spiritual transformation that we can be the light of the world in the area of reconciliation and show the way of freedom in Christ,” says Ntlha.
He urges South Africans to come together in prayer as brothers and sisters in Christ and not as black, white, coloured and Indian citizens.
South African Christians stand up and be counted
Likewise, in his message calling for the National Day of Prayer Uncle Angus said he had heard from the Lord that: “It’s time … we really need to get together … we really need, as Christians, to stand up in South Africa and be counted”.
“I am talking about white South Africans, black South Africans, coloured South Africans and Indian South Africans.
“I am saying to you that God is calling us to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Devil, no further than this’.
“I am addressing the horrific murders that are taking place, not only among white farmers, but among black farmers, among black and white citizens. I am very concerned about the rape and abuse of women and children, especially black women and children.”
The Mighty Men Conference founder said if we do not stand up and come against the powers of darkness through collective prayer, we are going to reap the whirlwind.
“Only Jesus Christ can save this nation and He will save it if His people call upon Him.”
Uncle Angus emphasised that we need to come together to seek the Lord: “I am talking about farmers, I am talking about workers, I am talking about businessmen and miners, I am talking about sportsmen, students and housewives … when we stand up united as one people God will change the paradigm and dimensions of this country”.
The unity that Uncle Angus calls for can only be brought about in Christ, not in race, language, class, nationalism or any other reason and without unity among Christians we will achieve little and go nowhere, but through repentance and united prayer in faith God will change the nation to His ways.
Intentionally extending prayers into actions
However, Ntlha cautions that while prayer is a powerful mechanism to resist and overcome the demons of xenophobia, tribalism, racism, and classism, we must intentionally and consciously extend our prayers into actions.
“We need to go beyond prayer to resist through our actions at a personal level,” says Ntlha.
“The demons that we face must be resisted both in prayer and actions. For example, if we want to cast out demons then we have to actively command them to go in Jesus’ name, in faith, and not only pray to God to remove the demons.
“We can’t merely pray then leave everything to God. Our prayers have to be active; we have to become God’s prayer instruments.
“We need to cooperate with God through prayers of engagement rather than leaving it all up to God through prayers of disengagement,” he says.
We are called on as followers of Jesus Christ to unite in one place as one body in prayer against violence in South Africa on April 22, but then when we leave the gathering it is up to us to remain united in spirit and to persevere in that prayer extending it into the rest of the country through our words and deeds.